Make no mistake about it, the consolidation that occurred in the carpet segment has moved into the laminate floor arena. Consider some recent happenings in Europe and North America. These have come at a fast-and-furious pace and show the direction the segment is taking.

Just since mid-January, Norske Skog Flooring Group acquired by Valinge Aluminium AB. And, at the same time, Norske Skog and Valinge jointly granted exclusive licenses to the Berry Group and Witex AG for the company’s patented mechanical-locking installation system for laminate floors.

Legal battles are ongoing in Europe over patent infringement claims related to the various mechanically locking installation systems currently available overseas. Look for these same legal battles to be waged here in North America, as well.

Alloc (Norske Skog) and BHK of America’s Uniclic Glueless Laminate Flooring have already secured U.S. patents for their installation systems. BHK’s patent (no. 6.006.48) for its edge connection system, which features a mechanism that allows the floor’s tongues and grooves to “click” together, covers the interlocking technology BHK used in the creation of the Uniclic system. And Valinge Aluminium holds three U.S. patents (no. 5,706,621; 5,860,267; and 6,023,907) for joining thin, hard, floating floors using a mechanical system.

Next, on March 27, Perstorp AB acquired 25.1% of the shares of Witex. With the acquisition, Pergo gains immediate access to direct laminate flooring technology. Production of Pergo- and Witex-branded products will be conducted at the Witex plant in Augustdorf, Germany. However, the two brands will continue to be marketed independently. Capacity at the Augustdorf facility will be expanded sharply, with Witex planning a U.S. plant and a possible joint venture in Asia. And the agreement between Perstorp and Witex gives Perstorp an option to increase its holdings of Witex to 49% during 2002, subject to certain conditions.

Following these developments, on March 31, Decorative Surfaces Holding AB (DSH) acquired Perstorp Surface Materials AB (PSM) from Perstorp AB (Perstorp Sweden) for approximately SEK 1.5 billion. DSH is an investment company that is wholly owned, indirectly, by the parent company of Formica Corp. PSM is a producer of decorative and industrial laminates, finished foils, printed paper and other surfacing materials.

And at press time in mid April, Scandinavian buyout firm Industri Kapital agreed to buy Perstorp AB for 9.4 billion kronor ($1.1 billion) in cash, thus forming Scandinavia’s largest specialty-chemical maker. Industri Kapital plans to combine Perstorp’s chemical assets with Nordkemi, which was made up of two other acquisitions: Norway’s Dyno ASA and Finland’s Neste Chemicals. Later, Industri Kapital plans to seek stock listings for the chemical and flooring activities.

So get your scorecards ready to keep track of the events. Consolidation in the laminate segment is just beginning.