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Suzano eyes debt financing for potential International Paper deal - Jefferies

MEMPHIS (From news reports) -- Suzano is reportedly looking to secure up to $19 billion in debt to potentially acquire International Paper, according to Bloomberg.

Analysts from Jefferies are predicting a potential cash offer for IP in the range of $54-57 per share, a figure that aligns with previous investor expectations. However, IP's board may value the company significantly higher.

Suzano's strategic move is geared towards creating a global industry leader with robust cash generation capabilities to expedite debt reduction. The company is also nearing the completion of a $4.2 billion project to boost its hardwood pulp capacity, which is expected to further enhance its free cash flow.

The reported $19 billion debt that Suzano aims to raise implies a potential acquisition price for IP in the $54-57 range. This would increase Suzano's projected leverage to 5.9 times its 2024 estimated earnings or 5.3 times its 2025 estimates, based on consensus predictions for Suzano and IP model forecasts.

Given IP shareholders' push for the company to divest its Cellulose business, it seems unlikely they would accept stock in a Brazilian pulp company. This is particularly true given Suzano's falling share price since expressing interest in IP.

Therefore, the news of Suzano's potential $19 billion debt aligns with the expectation that any offer below mid-$50s in cash would likely be rejected.

If the $50 per ton increase in linerboard holds, it could boost IP's EBITDA by approximately $550 million or around 26%. Using this framework, IP's shares could reach close to $56, even before considering any uplift from Silvernail's commercial and operational initiatives.

In an optimal scenario, shares of IP could approach $90 if IP manages to close the gap on revenue per ton and the $50 per ton increase sticks.

However, with mixed investor sentiments regarding the SMDS deal and a potential mid-$50s cash offer, deciding on an equity component becomes more challenging. Especially given that Suzano's stock has dropped by over 20% since initial reports of its interest in IP surfaced, while IP's stock has rallied.

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