Possible bidder emerges for Arjo UK ops

The shareholder of the company that has made a bid for three of Arjowiggins’ French paper mills has told PrintWeek he is also interested in two of the UK operations, which are also in administration.

Swedish wood and paper group Lessebo, a sister company of acquisition vehicle THLF, is awaiting a decision by the Commercial Court of Nanterre later today (7 March) on its takeover bid for Arjowiggins’ French paper mills in Bessé-sur-Braye, Bourray and Château-Thierry, which went into receivership in January.

The bid has been led by Norwegian pulp and paper businessman Terje Haglund, a shareholder in Lessebo. He is also the chief executive of Virginal Paper and was involved with two takeovers of insolvent paper mills last year, Zanders and the former Idempapers mill in Belgium.

Asked by PrintWeek if he was planning to make any bids in Arjowiggins’ UK-based operations, which went into administration on 15 January, Haglund said: “We are [interested in] two UK sites at the moment – Chartham and Stoneywood. That process is going on, but we are interested to apply.”

The Chartham Mill in Kent employs 90 staff while 489 people work at the Stoneywood mill in Aberdeenshire.

If successful with his current and any future bids into the Arjowiggins operations, Haglund said the sites would become part of the Lessebo group but that it was too early to comment further.

FRP Advisory, the administrator handling Arjowiggins’ UK operations, had not commented on their progress at the time of writing.

However, Haglund confirmed that Lessebo proposes to retain 413 of 580 staff working at the Bessé-sur-Braye plant, 210 of the 270 based at the Bourray plant and all 75 employees at Château-Thierry.

“It would be business as before but [run] in a more efficient way,” he said.

He added he is hopeful the French court will choose his company’s bid “because it represents more working places”.

French media has reported that while several other interested parties have come forward, no other bids were made for three sites. CGMP was reportedly interested in the Le Bourray plant while three other offers were made for Château-Thierry.

French media reports said Lessebo could provide €33m (£28.4m) but was also asking for state aid estimated at €32m as part of its bid.

The French court’s decision today could grant a deadline that would enable Lessebo to consolidate its offer, but the court could reportedly also opt for some of the other bids or commence a liquidation.