SIG Combibloc (SIG) has agreed the sale of Whakatāne Mill Limited (WML) to a consortium of investors who will enable the Mill to continue to operate. The consortium is led by Dr Dermot Smurfit who, together with his other European consortium members, has extensive experience in owning and operating paper packaging businesses. They have also brought a number of New Zealand investors alongside them.
A spokesman for the Smurfit Consortium, Mr Ian Halliday (who will become Chairman of the Whakatāne Mill) said the consortium looked forward to developing a more competitive operation to support customers in New Zealand and around the world.
“We believe that the Whakatāne Mill has a very bright future as the only folding box Board Mill in Oceania, and we intend to invest heavily in the Mill to support both our customers and New Zealand’s forest products industry,” he said.
The Mill will cease production of liquid packaging board and going forward will focus on its customers’ requirements for high quality folding box board, carrier board and food service board, all of which are currently manufactured at the Mill.
WML General Manager, Juha Verajankorva, said the agreed acquisition by the Smurfit Consortium was a positive outcome and represented a new and exciting era for the Mill. All senior management will remain with the new owners.
“This is a welcome development for Whakatāne and the wider Bay of Plenty region. It’s also great news for the New Zealand paper packaging sector and we appreciate the positive support of our workforce, our suppliers and customers in working towards this outcome which has been welcomed by all,” he said.
All parties had worked tirelessly to ensure the Mill could continue as a leading regional business, after vendor SIG indicated it could no longer sustain the operations of the plant. “Our preference was always for a sale of these assets so that they could continue to be productive,” said Mr Verajankorva. “It took until almost the final whistle, but this is a satisfying outcome.”
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