Sequana files for bankruptcy over contested fine

Rhys Handley
Friday, March 22, 2019

Sequana’s safeguarding procedure has been converted into bankruptcy as the Commercial Court of Nanterre has passed down its decision.

A statement from Sequana confirmed that the judgment of the court was made yesterday (21 March) that the procedure, which opened in February 2017, would be converted to a bankruptcy filing “for the benefit of Sequana”.

The observation period for proceedings is now set to continue until 18 May.

It is understood that Sequana felt unable to submit a safeguarding plan as it is appealing against a €135m (£116m) disputed dividend it had been ordered to pay to British American Tobacco (BAT) by the London Court of Appeal.

Running alongside this, the court is still to pass down its decision on the safeguarding procedure surrounding the administration and potential sale of Sequana subsidiary Arjowiggins’ sites in Bessé-sur-Braye, Bourray and Château-Thierry.

A decision on Swedish wood and paper group Lessebo’s purchasing offer, which attained the approval of the mills’ employees, was set to be handed down by the Commercial Court of Nanterre on Wednesday (20 March), although French newspaper France Bleu reported that "hopes were slim" for employees and a decision would now be known on Tuesday (26 March).

One well-placed paper industry source told PrintWeek that they suspected that neither Bessé-sur-Braye nor Bourray or Château-Thierry sites would be bought by Lessebo, with Bessé-sur-Braye likely to be closed and Bourray potentially sold to a tissue manufacturer.

Regarding the ongoing administration of Arjo’s UK operations in Aberdeen and Chartham, PrintWeek reported yesterday on reports published by administrator FRP Advisory which reveal a complex web of interlinked companies and extensive heap debts.

Variously, the UK businesses were subject in the reports to 13 indicative offers or expressions of interest to buy different elements of the businesses. According to the latest information seen by PrintWeek, however, the businesses are now considering three potential offers which may include one from Swedish wood and paper group Lessebo, headed by Norwegian shareholder Terje Haglund.

Sequana owns a stake of just over 75% in Antalis, but last month it emerged that Antalis, which has repeatedly stressed it is an “entirely separate business, with its own [Stock Exchange] listing” was setting up a new shareholding structure in the coming months that could have resulted in Sequana no longer being its majority shareholder.

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