New owner brings former Idem paper mill to life

By Rhys Handley, Thursday 28 June 2018

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A Belgian paper mill, formerly the home of insolvent Idempapers, has been acquired by start-up Virginal Paper and is set to begin operation 12 months after it produced its last grades.

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The Virginal mill has a capacity of 200,000 tonnes, according to its new chief executive

Shut down on 1 June last year when Idempapers fell into bankruptcy following a failure to find a buyer, the mill in the town of Virginal, Belgium, has laid dormant for a year.

As of 26 April this year, it was acquired by Norwegian pulp and paper businessman Terje Haglund with the support of Norwegian-Swedish investment group the Lesprom Network, as well as the Belgian state fund Sogepa and Swedish lender Avida Finans. Haglund will serve as chief executive of the new company – Virginal Paper.

Idem employed 360 people before it fell into insolvency. Virginal will initially create 70 new jobs with a “large part” of its staff being former Idem employees. The number will grow to 120 people in the foreseeable future, according to Haglund.

He said: “Our ambition is to have a profitable production and expand the production into the specialities market. The aim is to reach full production on both paper machines in the coming years.

“We are basically rebuilding the whole company as a new start-up. The mill will focus on one-side coated label, clay coated kraft, packaging, poster and wet strength papers.

“We will manufacture from a competitive cost base and focus on products with positive growth. We are pleased to invest in paper businesses in Europe. With a strong team of industry professionals, we will implement innovative and cost-efficient operations.”

Haglund has been a staple in the European paper market for years, having previously served as managing director at Lessebo Paper in Sweden, where he remains a shareholder.

Maximum capacity at the Virginal mill is 200,000 tonnes, according to Haglund. It will run at a capacity of 70,000 tonnes initially and increase as the mill's headcount grows. Capacity at the mill under Idem was 185,000 tonnes, which included carbonless grades. Virginal will not be producing carbonless.

Virginal’s customer base was described as being “in all corners of the world” and the company has yet to announce any merchants it might work with in the UK, mostly planning to trade direct to the market. It will begin production in July.

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