Smurfit to buy out Austrian paper firm

 

Jefferson Smurfit will buy out the remaining minority holdings in Austrian paper firm, Nettingsdorfer Papierfabrik. In a statement yesterday, the group said it would pay €54.8 million (£43.1 million) to increase its stake in the company to 100 per cent from 75 per cent in a deal which will be completed in July 2003.

Its Europe chief executive, Mr Tony Smurfit, said the group was also considering "two or three" bolt-on acquistions in Europe's corrugated paper industry.

Asked when such an acquisiton might be completed, he said: "There's nothing major on the agenda for the next quarter. What we are looking for in Europe is to try and buy quality assets at the right price over time."

Yesterday's agreement came after eight months of talks. Nettingsdorfer had not entered talks with any other group.

Smurfit first took 27.5 per cent of Nettingsdorfer in February 1995. This was increased to 75 per cent in the last year, he added.

Members of the Austria-based Stepski family will be the beneficiaries of the deal. Asked about the consideration, Mr Smurfit said: "We bought it at a good price." Technology used at the firm's operations ranked among the best in the world, he said.

Nettingsdorfer has a plant which manufactures kraftliner paper and has an annual production capacity of 420,000 tonnes. It also owns a corrugated production plant with capacity to produce 45,000 tonnes.

When taken with Smurfit's Facture mill in France, Mr Smurfit claimed the acquisition meant the group was now Europe's larger producer of kraftliner with capacity to produce 900,000 tonnes annually.

The investment would simplify Smurfit's structure in Europe, Mr Smurfit added. There were potential synergies in the integration of sales, product and production functions.