WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wisc. (From news reports) -- Verso Corp. announced it would continue considering Atlas Holding's offer to purchase the company if Atlas increased its offer to more than $20 per share.
In a news release, Verso announced it has entered into a confidentiality agreement with Atlas. In August, Verso announced it had formed a special committee and was consulting with independent advisers to evaluate the proposal. In Tuesday's announcement, Verso said the committee and advisers determined the $20 per share offer was insufficient.
As of Tuesday morning, Verso's stock rose to $19.37 per share.
If Atlas ends up purchasing Verso, the sale would include the Wisconsin Rapids mill that shut down last year, as it is still a Verso property, although it is too soon to tell what Atlas would choose to do with it.
Discussions began in July, when Atlas Holdings LLC filed a proposal to purchase Verso Corp., and Verso responded, confirming it had received the unsolicited proposal and began talking with its financial and legal advisers.
Atlas Holdings is a Greenwich, Connecticut-based private equity firm that owns and operates 23 manufacturing companies, including a concentration in the pulp and paper industry. The company has been an investor in Verso for about four years, and it offered to buy Verso, or a majority of its shares, several times between late 2017 and December 2019. Verso rejected the offers at the time.
As of Tuesday morning, Verso and Atlas have agreed to exchange additional information and continue discussing the offer, but Verso said there is no assurance that the companies would start negotiating a deal or come to an agreement.
The ongoing discussions bring continued uncertainty to Wisconsin Rapids and the employees who lost their jobs a year ago. A cooperative led by timber professionals formed last year, aiming to own and run the Wisconsin Rapids mill with mill workers and community members. The Consolidated Cooperative -- a nod to the paper mill's origins as Consolidated Water Power and Paper Company -- had been in discussions with Verso about purchasing the Wisconsin Rapids mill since the group filed a letter of intent in February to purchase the mill. But the Atlas offer put all other options on hold in July.
Once the special committee makes a recommendation to Verso's board, the board would vote. If the group decides to sell, the deal would need to be approved by Verso's shareholders, as well.