Lifestyle

Consortium of investors includes overseas and NZ buyers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visits the Whakatane Mill last year. Photo / NZMEThe Whakatne Mill will stay open after its owner, SIG Combibloc, agreed to sell to a consortium of investors including Irish paper and packaging tycoon Dermot Smurfit and New Zealand private equity chief Ross George.
The consortium is led by Smurfit who, together with his other European consortium members, has extensive experience in owning and operating paper packaging businesses.
They have also brought a number of New Zealand investors alongside them.
The mill is Whakatane’s largest private employer and has, for more than 80 years, produced paper and packaging products, mostly for export.
In March it was announced the mill would close and just over 210 staff would be redundant
A spokesman for the Smurfit Consortium, Ian Halliday, who will become chairman of the Whakatne Mill, said the consortium looked forward to developing a more competitive operation to support customers in New Zealand and around the world.
“We believe that the Whakatne Mill has a very bright future as the only folding boxboard mill in Oceania, and we intend to invest heavily in the mill to support both our customers and New Zealand’s forest products industry,” he said.
The mill would stop producing liquid packaging board and would focus high-quality folding box board, carrier board and food service board, all of which are currently manufactured at the mill.
Whakatane Mill Limited general manager Juha Verajankorva said the agreed acquisition by the Smurfit Consortium was a positive outcome and represented a new and exciting era for the mill.
All senior management will remain with the new owners.
“This is a welcome development for Whakatne and the wider Bay of Plenty region,” Verajankorva said.
“It’s also great news for the New Zealand paper packaging sector and we appreciate the positive support of our workforce, our suppliers and customers in working towards this outcome which has been welcomed by all.
“Our preference was always for a sale of these assets so that they could continue to be productive,” Verajankorva said.
“It took until almost the final whistle, but this is a satisfying outcome.”
Dermot Smurfit and Ross George are both listed as 33 per cent shareholders of Power Paperboard Ltd, recently registered at the New Zealand companies office, along with Swiss-based investor Raymond Alan Dargan.