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Propex emerging, diversifying

News | August 1, 2010 | By:

After several years of uncertainty, company leaders and employees at Chattanooga-based Propex Inc. say they are glad to be back on a stable economic track.

A major corporate merger on the eve of a recession-headed economy eventually led the geosynthetics manufacturing giant to enter Chapter 11 in January 2008. Now more diversified and with reduced debt, Propex officials say they’re still the world’s largest independent producer of carpet-backing material, but that’s only a segment of where the company is headed.

Industry observers noticed a significant debt problem following Propex’s purchase of Synthetics Inc.’s geosynthetics and concrete businesses in January 2006. Then the U.S. credit crisis ensued and the company could not refinance that debt. Wayzata Investment Partners, a Minnesota-based equity group, bought Propex at an auction in 2009 and helped the manufacturer focus on its core competencies, according to company executives. Propex also emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2009.

Propex emerged this year via the acquisition by Wayzata and company officials say that it is currently positioned to leverage global and U.S. assets for growth and profitability.

Propex diversifies

While Propex’s history is in carpet backing and geosynthetics, the company has diversified its offerings this year as it moves toward a goal of being a vertically integrated polypropylene producer.

Propex has 480 employees in the Chattanooga (Tenn.) area and about 2,000 worldwide. Propex CEO and president, William S. Brant Jr., has directed the development of four technology platforms and 20 products since he was named to the position following the company’s sale to Wayzata.

The company says it is particularly excited about its new Opus Roof Blanket, which replaces traditional tarpaper on roofing jobs. And another new product is Curv, a woven material described as the first self-reinforced 100% polypropylene composite that combines ballistic strength with flexibility. Both have seen success in initial applications and the company is marketing these and other new technologies.

Propex is now divided into four operating units: the traditional furnishing and geosynthetics divisions, which have been joined by the concrete and performance technologies divisions. The company is still described as an industry leader in the production of geosynthetics, including the world’s largest nonwoven plant.

Sources: Propex Inc. and other industry news sites

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