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Study Assesses the Future of Release Liners in Europe

Manufacturers of release liners and the converters and laminators that use them, in Europe and beyond, are experiencing a challenging trading environment. With pressure building on prices due to raw material increases, as well as on margins, the industry continues to seek ways of delivering better quality, at better prices, to wider markets.

We have seen this situation develop over the past few years, as it has throughout the packaging and converting industries, and documented the cumulative effect in our annual study of the release liner market.

I believe that, today, Europe provides an attractive base for global expansion in silicone release liners. It is growing annually at a healthy 5%-6%. It offers geographical proximity to some of the fastest developing markets in the world—Russia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East—and has traditional ties with many of the Pacific Basin countries whose economies are expanding again.

This year's study of the market has taken this into account. We have also broadened the market segmentation to include all self-adhesive applications, film casting, bakery and food applications, and non-self-adhesive industrial applications. Raw material pricing trends are now examined in detail, and more company profiles are included.

While there remain a number of excellent opportunities at all levels, there are also many changes taking place—driven not only by cost considerations (including the pressure on margins created by the industry's excess capacity), but also by consumer preference and government legislation. This is the reason for the consolidation and rationalization that characterize the industry today. Economies of scale and process technology are bringing real improvements in margins.

Technological advances are essential for the new generation of release liner base materials—polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene, and coextruded films—which today account for a high, and rapidly increasing, proportion of the market's requirements. Today, films account for more than 10% of European market demand, and annual growth is in double digits.

Although change is much in evidence throughout the European release liners industry, it has so far resulted in relatively few "global" players in silicone coating, even taking into account mergers and consolidation. An equally small number of converters have extended beyond the boundaries of their home regions, but interestingly, the market remains fragmented and largely regional.

There are many challenges, but there is cause for optimism about the future.

The European release papers and films industry will be the subject of a conference to be held at the Golden Tulip Amsterdam Center Hotel, in the Netherlands, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2000. The event is organized jointly by ASA Conferences (the Netherlands) and Gorham International (US).

The sponsors say the industry today is dealing with critical issues of overcapacity, material cost inflation, and consolidation. The conference will focus on how suppliers and converters can proactively maintain and develop a successful business; on the evolving technologies that will support it; and on opportunities and threats to the industry.

Preceding the conference will be an optional half-day "teach-in" presented by Chemsultants. It will cover release liner test procedures and equipment, said to be an important topic for anyone interested in trouble-free converting at high speeds.

Speakers include Dr. Winfired Hamann, Goldschmidt; Matti Laakso, Cham Tenero; Dr. Mans LeJeune, general secretary emeritus of FINAL; Todd O'Reilly, UCB Films; and Theo Wilting, Rexam Release,

For more information contact Gorham Intl. Inc., ph: 207/892-5929; fax: 207/892-2216. Visit AWA Alexander Watson Associates at awa-bv.com

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