Gelvenor Textiles, the Hammarsdale based world leader in the manufacture of industrial, technical apparel, outdoor lifestyle, protective and aeronautical fabrics has been acquired by South African private equity firm, Jacobs Capital.

This returns one of the true local textile success stories to local ownership. Up until now, it has been part of Courthiel Holdings, having been purchased by German corporate investor, Claas Daun, during an aggressive buying spree of textile companies during the nineties.

Daun, not so affectionately known in the industry as “Mr Close Down” at the time, bought up and repositioned ailing textile companies as the industry imploded in the wake of a flood ultra cheap Chinese imports when South Africa re-joined the global economy.

Gelvenor, which became the flagship of Daun’s South African textile portfolio, positioned itself as a global leader in the production of aeronautical fabrics, ballistics textiles, fire resistant fabrics and many other specialised products.

Gelvenor was established in 1965 as a weaver, dyer and finisher of synthetic and man-made continuous filament yarn fabrics.

Gelvenor’s range of aeronautical textiles is the result of 30 years of research. It has been used worldwide for over 25 years in the production of paragliding, skydiving, hot air ballooning and military canopies.

Gelvenor developed the first microfiber low bulk parachute fabrics in the world in 2002. These are now standard products sold to leading parachute manufacturers and have not been copied.

In 2007/8, Gelvenor supplied more than R100 million worth of ballistic fabric for vehicle armouring for coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gelvenor has capacity to produce 18 million square metres of fabric per year. 25% of Gelvenor’s output is contract fabrics, 30% is industrial fabrics, 25% is specialty high tech fabrics, 15% is apparel fabrics and the remaining 5%, commodity fabrics.

The company exports at least 30% of output directly. 30% of its local sales go towards indirect exports in the form of ballistics products, bomb suits, parachutes and uniforms. Key export markets are Russia, America, Europe and the United Kingdom.

“Gelvenor celebrated 50 years in business during 2015. The philosophy that drove us for the first 50 years was to step out into the unknown, tackle those niche and speciality markets and go where others were too scared to tread. Now we have new ownership that will bring additional vitality and new energy to the business. This is very exciting for us,” Gelvenor Chief Executive, Dicky Coetzee.

The Jacobs Capital buyout – effective from January this year – includes a merger with South Coast based MB Workwear, one of South Africa’s leading manufacturers of work wear and personal protective clothing.

MB Workwear will become a division of Gelvenor Consolidated Fabrics.

Wessel Jacobs, chief executive of Jacobs Capital, clarified that, even though the two companies shared the same parent company, they would continue to operate independently.

This will preserve important supply agreements with key customers within the work wear market and ensured that there would be no conflict of interests.

He added that the new ownership would not result in any material changes in agreements with Gelvenor’s suppliers.

“This transaction means that Gelvenor is now a 100% South African company for the first time in our long and successful history,” Coetzee added.

Whereas the South African textile industry has been dogged by constant closes and job losses for more than three decades, both Coetzee and Jacobs are focussing on growth and job creation.

Jacobs pointed out that, because of the company’s sustained growth, there would be no staff changes. Instead, the emphasis would be on further innovation and research as part of a drive to position Gelvenor as a global leader in the production of specialist fabrics.  In the longer term, this could see the company expand and create further job opportunities.

Coetzee welcomed the fact that Jacobs Capital supported Gelvenor’s business model and its strategy.

“Jacobs Capital has a team of strong business leaders who will invest in and assist us to build on Gelvenor’s strengths. Their target is to grow the business and to provide support for Gelvenor to tackle even bigger projects than what we have done in the past.”

Gelvenor plans to grow volumes of aeronautical textiles by at least 30 % in the next year through the production of extremely light and thin fabrics for rescue parachutes as well as capturing additional market share in the paragliding market.