TEXTILES manufacturer W&J Knox has sold off its fibre and carpet yarn business to allow it to expand internationally under a new owner.

Knox has sold the business to Italian nylon maker Aquafil. However, it will continue to own the land and buildings associated with the business in Kilbirnie, Ayrshire.

The sale, for an undisclosed sum, secures 71 jobs in the fibre and carpet business and could lead to more jobs being created, the firm said yesterday.

Meanwhile, W&J Knox will continue as a netting and marine support business, with around 60 members of staff.

"This is a fantastic development as it enables a large international company with considerable resources to further develop and invest in fibre processing at Kilbirnie and exploit global markets to the benefit of all," said managing director Jim Traynor, who will remain at the company following the sale.

"It also means we can focus on our successful net manufacturing and marine services division and take this side of the business forward," he added.

W&J Knox posted a 30 per cent rise in net profits to £682,000 on revenues of £10.6 million in 2012, according to its most recent accounts. Seven per cent of its sales were made overseas that year.

The firm was bought out by Mr Traynor and the rest of the management team in 2004, in a £3.4 million deal backed by Clydesdale Bank. Before this, the firm had been part of Grimsby-based marine safety group Cosalt since the 1970s.

W&J Knox can trace its history back to the Knox family's textile mill in the late 18th century.

As well as fishing nets, the company has produced camouflage netting, sports nets and salmon cages for the Scottish Sea Farms, which signed a fresh 18-month maintenance contract earlier this year.

Knox launched a marine business in 2008 to provide moorings and nets off the west coast of Scotland.

Aquafil, founded in 1969, manufacturers nylons used in carpets, textiles and plastics.

The group has established a new company under the name of Aquafil UK to hold its new operations.

Aquafil said when the deal was first announced in August that it would work with Knox to expand its carpet business across Europe. The company already has plants in Italy, Slovenia and Germany.

"This acquisition will ensure that this long and proud manufacturing tradition at Kilbirnie will continue for the foreseeable future, providing a real boost for the local economy," said Mr Traynor.