$3B deal to acquire Domtar has no impact on P.A. mill plans: Paper Excellence VP


“This is a new era for Prince Albert.”

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The recently announced acquisition of pulp and paper company Domtar by Paper Excellence will have no impact on plans to restart the Prince Albert Pulp and Paper Mill, the company says.

On Tuesday, Paper Excellence announced it had entered into a “definitive agreement” to acquire Domtar for $55.50 per share in cash. The agreement is pending shareholder and regulator approval. The all-cash deal carries an enterprise value of about $3 billion.

Paper Excellence said it plans to operate Domtar as a stand-alone business entity, meaning Domtar will retain its management team while Paper Excellence will retain its corporate and production locations.

Graham Kissack, Paper Excellence vice-president of EHS and corporate communications, said last week that the deal will not affect the ongoing plans in P.A.

“If anything, this deal strengthens Paper Excellence,” he said.

“It makes us more diversified and more competitive internationally. That helps us sell our product more effectively into markets.”


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The acquisition was approved unanimously by Domtar’s board of directors. It’s expected to close in the second half of 2021.

Paper Excellence purchased the mill from Domtar 10 years ago and signed a 10-year non-compete clause. The company announced earlier this year plans to reopen the Prince Albert facility, aiming for a summer 2023 reopening. That timeline is still on track, Kissack said.

“We’ve started planning work to prepare the site for the upcoming construction project. There is some demolition work and other things about to begin now. We’ve also started hiring people at the site,” he said, noting the company has also started the hiring process at the site.

The announcement made by Paper Excellence in February that it planned to reopen the P.A. mill was met with some skepticism. Kissack hopes the work done locally — including preparing for demolition and hiring additional positions — helps increase confidence in the project.

“I hope people look to what we’re doing … to increase the size of the team at the mill,” he said, noting that the “project is ramping up and speeding up.”

Unifor Local 1120 represents the 185 staff who have recall rights to future jobs at the mill. If they don’t want to come back, new candidates will be recruited to fill the positions.

“This is a new era for Prince Albert,” Local 1120 president Rodney Staff said in February.

“It’s going to be a very attractive place to work. The job aspects of it are going to be fantastic. Young people in northern Saskatchewan are going to be given such a fantastic opportunity to have a well-paying job and benefits and everything that goes along with it.”


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In February, Paper Excellence announced it had spent about $600,000 so far on engineering and design work at the mill. The investment was to determine what needs to be refurbished and also to design new equipment for the mill. Kissack said that in addition to the 200 or so full-time employees for the mill site, he estimated that about 1,000 to 1,500 indirect jobs would result from the economic spinoff.

The mill has an annual capacity of 340,000 tones of northern bleached softwood kraft, pulp composed of longer fibres and used as reinforcement pulp in a variety of paper products including printing and writing paper, specialty grades and tissue products.

Paper Excellence estimates the capital and cost to restart the mill at about $550 million. It will consume an estimated 1,849,000 square metres of fibre each year.

The mill hasn’t operated since 2006 when it was closed in the second quarter. Domtar purchased the mill and assets from Weyerhauser in 2007 and began dismantling equipment in 2008.

With the facility not operating for 15 years, Kissack said Paper Excellence hopes to make improvements in the pulping and bleach plant areas to make a better product with a lighter environmental footprint. The work is set to “replace the heart of the mill” while using the existing recovery boiler, said to be one of the most modern in Canada.


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