Review of 2019: Arjowiggins – the great unravelling

At the end of 2018, Arjo owner Sequana had agreed to sell the Graphic and Creative papers arm to Dutch firm Fineska in a deal worth €125m, but the deal collapsed in early 2019 after the buyer got cold feet, a turn of events that initiated a great unravelling...

Arjowiggins' Fine Papers Chartham mill
Arjowiggins' Fine Papers Chartham mill

8 January Following the collapse of the sale deal, Arjowiggins began safeguard and receivership proceedings for some of its French subsidiaries that operated the mills at Bessé-sur-Braye, Le Bourray and Greenfield. This was subsequently confirmed by the Court of Nanterre.

15 January The trading companies within the Arjowiggins UK business, all part of the Creative Papers arm, went into administration.

22 February An offer was made for some of the mills currently in administration, with a new UK company, THLF, named as the potential buyer.

8 March The Commercial Court of Nanterre postponed its decision on offers made by potential buyers for three Arjowiggins’ French sites that are in administration “in order to allow the best industrial, financial and employment solutions to be found”.

13 March Administrators FRP report that they have had three offers for the UK Arjo businesses: two for the whole Creative Papers division and one for the Chartham base alone.

21 March An administrators’ report revealed the full scope of Arjo’s UK debt. The company was handing over weekly payments to keep the lights on at its UK mills to offset a debt to its energy provider. The report highlighted a complex financial picture: Arjowiggins Fine Paper, which ran the Stoneywood mill in Aberdeen, had alone accrued a creditors list valued at £21.5m, including more than £1.2m owed to Scottish Power.

22 March The Commercial Court of Nanterre converted Sequana’s safeguarding procedure into bankruptcy.

27 March FRP Advisory said they were working with a preferred bidder for the UK businesses.

29 March It emerged that a sale had been agreed for the Château-Thierry plant alongside a partial sale of the Bourray operation. The site in Bessé-sur-Braye, however, would go into liquidation, leading to the loss of 580 jobs. This led to the liquidation of UK business Performance Papers, a subsidiary of Arjowiggins Graphic Papers linked to the Bessé operation.

16 May The Nanterre court ordered that Sequana be liquidated after a High Court ruling was upheld by the London Court of Appeal in February, ordering Sequana to pay €163m to British American Tobacco in a protracted dispute over dividends in 2008 and 2009.

5 June An MBO team emerged as the potential future owner of Arjowiggins Fine Papers’ Stoneywood and Chartham mills.

26 July France-based private equity firm Prudentia Capital acquired the Arjobex group of businesses, including Arjobex Limited in Clacton-on-Sea.

25 September An MBO team acquired the business and assets of the Arjowiggins Fine Papers and Arjowiggins Chartham businesses. The purchase has been made by subsidiaries of a new venture, Creative Paper Holdings, which was formed by the MBO team.

2 October The new business, now named Arjowiggins Group Ltd and headquartered in Scotland, completed a deal for the Guarro Casas mill in Spain, the Quzhou mill in China and offices in France and Milan.

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