Verso paper company to consider selling Androscoggin Mill

Tuesday, Nov 17, 2015

Printing paper company Verso Corp., which is slashing 300 jobs at its Androscoggin Mill in Jay, said Monday it's considering selling the mill and several others to raise money.

In its earnings report, the company said it's considering selling four mills, including the Androscoggin Mill and its related hydro-electric facilities, to meet its financial obligations.

"I know this news is unsettling, but be assured that Verso will continue to operate our business as usual as we explore a potential restructuring and potential asset sales," CEO David Paterson told employees in an email.

Verso's manager at its Androscoggin Mill, Everett O'Neill, spoke to Androscoggin Mill employees on Monday, Verso spokesman Bill Cohen told the Portland Press Herald.

"He encouraged employees at the mill to stay focused on safety and what they can control and not get hung up in corporate restructuring," Cohen said.

In September, analysts warned that a bankruptcy filing was imminent after Verso's stock collapsed. And the company said that a restructuring is necessary to meet future cash obligations.

Verso reported a boost in revenue with the acquisition of NewPage, a paper producer. Before the deal closed, the company closed its mill in Bucksport, putting 500 people out of work.

But the company said its sales declined, once the acquisition was taken into account, because of an increase in imports and a decline in demand for coated paper.

The Maine Pulp and Paper Association, which represents members of the state's pulp and paper industry, on Monday issued a statement in response to Verso's news.

"Mill leadership across the state recognizes its responsibility to improve operating efficiencies, make capital investments and innovate products to meet customers' needs," it said. "But even the most successful mills need help on issues such as energy costs, access to fiber and tax policy, among others, if this industry is to compete and thrive in today's challenging times."

Verso is already cutting the Jay workforce by 300 next month, and it has indefinitely shut down its mill in Wickliffe, Kentucky. About 500 workers will remain on duty in Jay in the new year.

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