French Arjo staff doubt successful sale amid court delays

By Rhys Handley, Wednesday 27 March 2019

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Arjowiggins staff at the paper manufacturer’s French plants continue to await a decision on the sale of the business, as the court delays its decision once again.

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Lessebo reiterated its commitment to the purchase of Arjo's French operations

The Commercial Court of Nanterre was originally set to rule on the offer by Swedish wood and paper group Lessebo to buy the sites in Bessé-sur-Braye, Bourray and Château-Thierry on 20 March, before delaying to yesterday (26 March).

In a statement from Bessé-sur-Braye mill director Jean-Christophe Mailhan published yesterday, it was indicated that the court had once again delayed its decision to Friday (29 March). Mailhan described the further delay as “leaving few doubts about [the Lessebo offer’s] abandonment”, anticipating that the court would rule in favour of liquidation.

He wrote to Arjo employees: “We are aware of the impact the situation at the plants but have nevertheless decided to preserve these jobs and maintain activity. We are contacting with all kinds of investors to find financing, whether in the paper industry, from private investors or local networks.

“Time is very short, and we must remain lucid; the chances of success are extremely meagre. We have experienced enough emotional twists in recent weeks. We do not want to create false hope and must be aware of the near impossibility of reversing our fate by Friday.

“You can still count on our total commitment; we will do everything we can.”

Lessebo’s offer is being spearheaded by shareholder and Norwegian businessman Terje Haglund, who previously confirmed to PrintWeek that he proposed 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. He is also, seperately, courting a purchase of the administrating UK sites.

It was initially understood that Lessebo could provide €33m conditional on state aid of €32m, however a new undisclosed proposal was subsequently submitted by Lessobo.

Haglund reiterated his intention to push forward with his offer.

Speaking to PrintWeek, he said: “We are still working hard to come back in the same position as we were before we made the original offer.

“I am still optimistic but there is a lot of hard work to be done.”

The French sites went into receivership in January, with Arjo’s UK sites equally courting buyers while in administration. Antalis, former sister company through parent Sequana, reiterates its financial independence from Arjo and the administrating Sequana, which still holds the majority of shares in Antalis until a planned restructure is complete.

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