Chemical Fiber Monopolies

Chemical Fiber Monopolies


a group of capitalist monopolies that dominate the market in chemical fibers in the capitalist countries. They are primarily powerful multinational chemical firms that produce fibers in addition to other chemical products (see Table 1).

In mid-1972, 11 companies accounted for approximately 60 percent of the total production capacity for chemical fiber in the capitalist countries. More than 10 percent was concentrated at plants operated by the mammoth E. I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company, which had a total production capacity of 1,135,000 tons per year. The AKZO group, the second largest producer of chemical fibers, had an estimated production capacity of 200,000 tons per year of cellulose fibers and 580,000 tons per year of synthetic fibers in mid-1972, constituting approximately 7 percent of the total production capacity for chemical fibers in the capitalist world. Courtaulds Ltd., which had specialized in the development of cellulose fibers, began the accelerated development of synthetic fiber production in the late 1960’s. In 1972, its production capacity reached 500,000 tons per year, including 170,000 tons of synthetic fibers. The Montedison Group, Rhône-Poulenc, and Celanese Corporation also achieved annual production capacities of approximately 500,000 tons.

Table 1. The leading chemical fiber monopolies in the capitalist countries (1974)
 Total sales volume (in millions of dollars)Sales volume of fibers (percent of total sales volume)1
1Including other textile products; estimated
2Fiscal year ending Mar. 31, 1975
3Fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 1974
Hoechst (Federal Republic of Germany) ...............7,82113
ICI (Great Britain) ...............6,9129
Du Pont (USA) ...............6,91035
Montedison (Italy) ...............6,19013
Rhône-Poulenc (France) ...............4,23433
AKZO (Netherlands) ...............4,01047
Monsanto (USA) ...............3,49822
Courtaulds (Great Britain)2 ...............268485
Celanese (USA) ...............1,92858
Toray (Japan)2 ...............1,43488
Teijin (Japan)3 ...............1,08090

The production of chemical fibers in several countries is virtually controlled by one or two monopolies. In Great Britain, Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. (ICI) and Courtaulds account for approximately 80 percent of the country’s production capacity for chemical fibers. In the Federal Republic of Germany, 70 percent of fiber production is concentrated in the hands of AKZO (through Enka-Glanzstoff) and Hoechst AG. The chemical companies Rhône-Poulenc in France and Montedison in Italy virtually control the production and marketing of fibers in those countries. Approximately 80 percent of the production capacity in the USA is controlled by eight companies, of which Du Pont, Celanese, and Monsanto are the largest. Monopolies are especially powerful in markets for individual types of chemical fibers. In particular, the production of cellulose fibers in Great Britain is completely monopolized by Courtaulds, and ICI dominates the market for polyamide and polyester fibers.

As a result of the rapid growth in production and the intensification of competition in the chemical fiber industry in the early 1970’s, concentration in the industry was accelerated, the number of mergers increased, and integration with the textile industry advanced. This integration was especially characteristic of the operations of ICI and Courtaulds, which bought up a significant number of textile plants in Great Britain.

The overproduction and sales crisis in chemical fibers, which overtook the industry in the periods 1970–71 and 1974–75, increased the monopolies tendency to diversify their production programs and reduce costs by organizing the entire production cycle from raw materials to the finished textiles. At the same time, another form of expansion of sales markets began—the creation of branches and daughter companies in other countries. The Western European firms, in an attempt to compete with American monopolies that were expanding their influence in Western European markets, are establishing plants in the USA. At the beginning of the 1970’s, chemical fiber monopolies expanded plant construction projects in the developing countries. In 1975, Du Pont had chemical fiber plants in ten developed capitalist and developing countries, AKZO had plants in 13 countries, Courtaulds had plants in eight countries, and ICI had plants in nine countries.

The high degree of monopolization within the industry permits very large corporations to conclude cartel agreements that provide for the division of spheres of influence and the maintenance of predetermined price levels. However, this does not eliminate the acute competitive struggle among monopolies, especially in periods of economic crisis in the capitalist countries.