In the 2020 financial year, the technology company Freudenberg SE, Weinheim/Germany, suffered a 6.6% drop in sales to €8.84 billion. But despite the exceptional market situation, it achieved an EBIT of €669.9 million (2019: €820.0 million).
In the Technical Textiles and Filtration Business Area, which comprise the Freudenberg Performance Materials, Freudenberg Filtration Technologies and Japan Vilene Company segments, sales rose by 6.1% to €2.09 billion in 2020.
For the Freudenberg Performance Materials Segment, 2020 was very challenging due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Global demand slumped in almost all key markets. Additional sales were generated in Germany and France through the production of basic materials for face masks. At the site in Durham, NC/USA, investments were made in new machines for the production of protective masks.
The corona pandemic hit the global apparel market particularly hard and the automotive industry was also severely affected. The Energy Division of Freudenberg Performance Materials achieved good sales growth with the production of gas diffusion layers (GDL), an indispensable component of fuel cells.
The segment also invested in its sites worldwide: In Nantong/China, a new state-of-the-art production site for interlinings was built. The new factory went into operation in summer 2020.
At the Freudenberg & Vilene Nonwovens site in Suzhou/China, Freudenberg Performance Materials built a new line for the production of comfortemp, an innovative thermal insulation for technical textiles and sportswear.
In Taiwan, too, a new production line for spunbond nonwovens was commissioned in autumn 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to modern product and process technology, this investment represents an important step for the further growth of the business in Asia in market segments such as automotive interiors, construction, shoe components and filtration.
The acquisitions of Filc Group, Škofja Loka/Slovenia, in December 2019 and Low & Bonar PLC, London/UK, in May 2020, as well as the implementation of restructuring activities as a basis for future profitable growth, had a significant impact on the business development in 2020.
As a provider of high-quality filtration solutions, Freudenberg Filtration Technologies developed new product and service solutions for customers on topics such as “hygiene” and “protection against airborne pollutants”, such as special Covid-19 plant checks and hygiene audits. In industrial filtration, good business performance in Europe and China compensated for the sales decline in North America. The industrial water treatment business also performed well. The positive sales development in Europe was primarily due to the short-term start of activities with respiratory protection media and masks, while most other industrial filtration segments experienced declines.
In Shunde/China, the foundation stone was laid for a new plant not far from the previous Freudenberg Apollo Filtration Technologies site. Modern production halls, storage areas and administration buildings are being built for the “Consumer” Division. Commissioning is planned for mid-2021.