Specialist papermaker shuttered

Mill was recognised as a ‘living heritage company’ by the French government in 2015
Mill was recognised as a ‘living heritage company’ by the French government in 2015

A historic French papermaker has become the latest European mill to be shuttered in a seismic period for the trade.

Strasbourg-based Lana Papier entered an insolvency procedure at the beginning of April. In the absence of a rescue deal or buyer for the business, a liquidation process began last month.

The firm made a range of specialist and bespoke papers spanning security, labels, publishing, technical and fine art.

President and director general Lasse Brinck, who acquired the business out of insolvency in 2013, told Printweek that, despite record sales last year, the loss of key staff had badly impacted the operation and the resulting losses proved unsustainable.

“Our shift leaders are highly-experienced technicians. We produced more than 5,000 different types of paper and some of them are very complex,” he explained.

“We had four shift leaders. Unfortunately one of them died, another had an operation in April 2022 and he is still not back at work.”

Despite ongoing plans to train up new operatives, the disturbance to production and resulting inefficiencies hit the mill’s finances.

“We’ve been focusing on recruitment for the past five years and had actually been trying to move from three shifts to five shifts. But we didn’t even manage to maintain the three shifts. And that’s probably a symptom of the availability of workforce nowadays,” Brinck said.

“Sadly we are aligning with our colleagues who have closed down over the last years, like Stoneywood, we are just adding to the list,” Brinck noted.

He said he remained proud of what had been achieved during his tenure.

“I am still honestly proud of what we accomplished during the ten years. At the end of the day we have paid out some 45 million euros in salaries, and created a lot of good business for our community.”

The mill’s turnover was €21m (£17.92m) last year and it had annual production capacity of 20,000 tonnes. When Brinck acquired it sales were €14m.

Its two paper machines and specialist finishing kit are now up for sale, along with around 300-400 tonnes of completed stock and sundry raw materials.

“PM4 is a hybrid and a very rare machine. It can make flatbed and mould-made paper and is 2.13m wide – one of the biggest in the world,” Brinck added.

Lana Papier’s origins date back to 1590, when master papermaker Demenge Harlachol set up a business near to Villa Lana in central Vosges. Subsequently, a new paper making factory was established in Strasbourg in 1872 and the two sites merged in 2002.

In 2015 the mill was recognised as a ‘living heritage company’ by the French government.