Non-woven producer Polymer Group Inc has posted a 15.6 per cent year-on-year increase in first quarter gross profit to $38.5 million.

The South Carolina-based company, which operates 21 manufacturing facilities in 10 countries, also reported a five per cent rise in sales to $206.7m for the quarter, up from $197m in the same period a year earlier.

According to CEO James Schaeffer, the company's latest quarterly sales were its highest since the second quarter of fiscal 2001.

"The strong sales we achieved during the first quarter is a result of the momentum we began to build during the second half of 2003," Schaeffer said.

"We continued to improve our operating income through improved manufacturing efficiency combined with increased volume from new business development initiatives."

Also during the quarter, Polymer posted an 18.5 per cent rise in operating income to $10.8m, up from $9.1m in the previous first quarter.