Boston, Massachutts, USA, and Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August 2009 -- /PRNewswire/ -- Sappi Fine Paper North America (NYSE:SPP) today announced that it will permanently cease operations at its coated fine paper mill in Muskegon, Michigan. The closing will affect approximately 190 salaried and hourly Muskegon employees, who have been on furlough since the suspension of operations at the mill, which was announced in March 2009. Before that suspension, Sappi Fine Paper North America operated a single paper machine at the site with an annual production capacity of 170,000 metric tons.
Sappi will record a charge of approximately USD 30 million in the fourth financial quarter in respect of separation and other closure costs. Of this amount, an estimated USD 10 million relates to noncash charges. The fixed assets are fully impaired.
"The global economic downturn has resulted in very weak demand for coated fine paper worldwide. In North America, industry conditions remain very challenging, with current year to date shipments of coated wood free paper down 32% from 2007 levels and only modest recovery forecast for 2010," said Ralph Boettger, chief executive officer of Sappi Limited, the parent of Sappi Fine Paper North America. "The permanent closure of the Muskegon mill, while an extremely difficult decision to make, is necessary to ensure that we remain competitive in today's global marketplace. This decision is in line with our commitment to substantially improve Sappi's profitability and returns in all our businesses," Boettger said.
"We understand the hardship this decision creates for our employees at the Muskegon mill. We will be providing separation benefits and job placement services for our salaried employees and will be commencing discussions with union representatives regarding the terms of hourly employees' separation benefits," said Mark Gardner, president and CEO of Sappi Fine Paper North America. "Our workforce at Muskegon was very dedicated, achieving record productivity and safety performance in the last year of operation. Unfortunately, the scale of the site made it difficult to successfully compete against larger paper mills throughout the world. We will be retaining an adviser to seek purchasers for the mill not engaged in the manufacture of coated printing and writing paper."
The cessation of operations at the Muskegon Mill will not affect the product lines offered by Sappi Fine Paper North America. Since March, products previously made at Muskegon have been and will continue to be manufactured at the company's other paper mills in Skowhegan, Maine, and Cloquet, Minnesota.
"We remain committed to meeting the needs of our customers for high quality, strongly branded coated products with outstanding service from our mills located in Maine and Minnesota, as well as Western Europe," Gardner said. "Even with the suspension of operations at the Muskegon mill, we have continued to increase our market position and gain new customers in this weak environment through new product line extensions and product improvements."
About Sappi Fine Paper North America
Sappi Fine Paper North America (SFPNA) is a leading North American producer of coated fine paper used in premium magazines, catalogues, books, and high-end print advertising. Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Sappi Fine Paper North America is known for innovation and quality. SFPNA is a division of Sappi Limited (NYSE, JSE, LSE). Learn more about Sappi Fine Paper North America at: www.sappi.com/na.
About Sappi Limited
Sappi, a global pulp and paper company headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, is the world's leading producer of coated fine paper used in the production of glossy magazines, calendars, annual reports, and brochures. The company has significant businesses in forests, pulp, coated speciality paper, packaging grades, uncoated fine paper, and newsprint in Africa. Sappi is also the world's largest producer of chemical cellulose (dissolving pulp) used in the manufacture of viscose staple fiber and consumer and pharmaceutical products. Sappi has more than 15,000 employees worldwide, production facilities in nine countries on four continents, customers in more than 100 countries, and is listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (SAP), the New York Stock Exchange (SPP), and the London Stock Exchange (SAZ).