Posts Tagged ‘NBHK’

Leaders Magazine: “Making Money and Wallpaper”

Posted: Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

An interview with Chadwick Wasilenkoff, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Director, Fortress Paper Ltd.

Editors’ Note: As Fortress Paper’s Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Director, Chad Wasilenkoff oversees the company’s production of security and other specialty papers. Most recently, Wasilenkoff was the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Titan Uranium Exploration Inc. from July 2004 to July 2006 and an independent private equity investor from October 2002 to January 2004. From 1997 to 2002, Wasilenkoff was an investment advisor and financial planner at Canaccord Capital Corp. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of British Columbia.

Company Brief: Fortress Paper is a leading international producer of security and other specialty papers and pulp. The company operates three mills: the Landqart Mill in Switzerland, the Dresden Mill in Germany, and the recently acquired Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill in Thurso Quebec, Canada. Fortress Paper’s security paper includes banknotes, passport, and visa papers and its specialty papers include non-woven wallpaper base products and graphic and technical papers. Its specialty pulp business currently includes NBHK and the mill is undergoing a conversion to dissolving pulp for the textile industry in Asia. As an extension of its security papers business, the Landqart Mill has been actively developing and marketing innovative paper-based security products.

What did you see in the market that made you feel Fortress Paper would be successful?

My background is as more of a contrarian investor, so I always start from the bottom up. I was looking at the forestry sector – everything else was taking off, but this was still in a steady decline and had been for 12 to 15 years. So I evaluated pulp companies and commodity paper companies, and found these two niche paper mills that were world class in what they did. They had growth industries in both of their core products, but what they lacked was a strong and focused management team and growth capital. So that’s how we built the company.

What is produced at each of the mills?

Our German mill, located just outside Dresden, specializes in a non-woven wallpaper base. Most wallpapers are traditionally made from a regular kraft pulp, and that is what leads to the problem of trying to remove the paper. Because of that, the industry was going through challenging times. It had been in about a 10 to 12 decline, it has since steadied and been fairly stable and mature. The reason for that stability is because the industry got together and created this non-woven product where we put synthetic fibers into the paper. With those synthetic fibers, we get the strength characteristics and it becomes dry-stoppable. So now, once you’re able to pull a corner away, it comes off in one pull. While the overall wallpaper market is stable, this non-woven product is growing within it at about a 15 to 20 percent per annum growth rate, and we currently represent 50 percent of the world production of non-woven wallpaper.

The other mill is our Landqart mill, based in Switizerland, and it specializes in high-security paper. What we’re best known for is the banknote side of things. We’re the sole maker of the Swiss Franc, which is the industry standard – it is the currency by which all international banks measure themselves. It has more security features than any other currency in the world and one of the lowest counterfeit rates. It has never had a professional counterfeit attempt against it.

We also make the Euro for about 10 different countries, passports for dozens of countries, the entry visa sticker for India and China, and brand protection for companies like Rolex.

Our latest acquisition, Fortress Specialty Cellulose, was a shut down NBHK Mill in Thurso Quebec, Canada. We put together a plan to purchase the mill and convert it to a higher margin product, dissolving pulp, which is primarily used for producing rayon in Asia. Most of the financing for the $153 conversion was provided by the Quebec government.

What impact is new technology having on counterfeit issues?

Probably the biggest change in the global counterfeiting market has been the advancement of color photocopier standards. Now anybody can go onto eBay and buy regular home officer equipment and do a half decent job of counterfeiting. A lot of money goes into research and development and new technologies to try to make it as difficult as possible for these counterfeiters. Unfortunately some of these products are too successful and they get commercialized. For instance, the hologram that you typically find on a banknote, you can now buy holographic wrapping foil, and with a fairly rudimentary stamp, create your own hologram with that denomination on it. So while it was a spectacular feature when it began, it is slowly losing ground. They are now continuing to work on holograms to try to improve them, to make them a lot more complex and difficult.

What are your key priorities over the coming year to make sure the growth continues and the brand remains strong?

When I bought the company, I had a three-stage long-term plan: stage one was to change and focus on hiring and retaining good management; the second stage was dealing with internal or organic growth, and leveraging off our existing assets; the third stage was going external, so now it’s more of a focus on mergers and acquisitions.

In our industry, especially on the banknote side, cost is probably fifth or sixth on the list for national banks. It’s reputation first and foremost. It’s and industry that is not going to shift over to low-cost production regions. It’s just too important of a product worry about coming from a low-cost environment. So it’s about reputation, quality, new innovative products, high-security measures, and staying ahead of the counterfeiter. It’s such an important product that they’re willing to pay for a new world-class innovative technology and security feature. We’d like to find small companies that have these great products but can’t break into the banknote industry because it is so conservative. A lot of the printers or papermakers have been around for more than 300 years, so nobody wants to take a chance on a little supplier. We can take a small company that has a world-class product, and acquire it or do a joint venture or at least enable the security of that particular product, and we can launch it under our umbrella, giving it the reputation.

Do you see yourself in this business for the long term?

We have a lot to accomplish with Fortress Paper and one of our biggest challenges today is our share price. While our stock is currently undervalued, we are working to ensure that our shares trade closer to the industry averages that will enable us to make creative acquisitions that increase our reach and technological acumen. At some point in the foreseeable future, I am likely to relinquish the CEO title but stay on Chairman and a happy shareholder.

From Leaders Magazine, Volume 33 Number 3.

BC Business: “Outside The Box Business Strategies”

Posted: Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

When life deals you pulp, you make cellulose. Learn how to recognize business opportunities, then reach out and grab them.

Any business needs a coherent strategy if it hopes to succeed. However, in a climate where marketplace and financial changes are becoming ever more rapid, clinging mindlessly to a strategy can be a recipe for disaster. Simply put, companies today must be more agile in their thinking to take advantage of business opportunities that may present themselves.


The Problem

North Vancouver’s Fortress Paper Ltd. has carved out a good and growing business niche since it began in 2006. That’s when CEO and chair Chadwick Wasilenkoff bought separate paper mills in Germany and Switzerland to produce specialty papers: security paper used in banknotes, passports and visas; and specialty papers such as non-woven wallpaper-base products and graphic and technical paper. But in 2009, the crushing downturn in the overall forestry industry threw an opportunity at Wasilenkoff that would move the company in a completely different direction. He had to decide: should Fortress stick with successful execution of a strategy or take advantage of an opportunity?


The Solution

Wasilenkoff has always approached business as an investor instead of as a manager, and so he applied solid investment principles in order to reach his decision. One of the primary ones, he believes, is that “it’s better to be lucky than good.” 


When Toronto’s Fraser Papers, which made printing and publishing papers, became a victim of the recession and filed for creditor protection in June 2009, Wasilenkoff started looking at its assets, especially Fraser’s shuttered hardwood pulp mill in Thurso, Quebec. The mill drew Wasilenkoff’s interest because it had the perfect technology for an idea he’d been playing with for some time: the conversion of hardwood pulp to dissolving cellulose, a commodity that was being sought by Asian textile producers. As the price of cotton soared, Asian textile companies wanted to replace it with rayon, which is derived from dissolving cellulose. 


Wasilenkoff decided the opportunity was too good to pass up and went for it. He formed a subsidiary that obtained the Thurso mill for the fire-sale price of $1.2 million. After a $153-million conversion, it will switch from producing northern bleached hardwood kraft (NBHK) pulp to dissolving cellulose. 


Wasilenkoff brought Quebec on board by providing jobs for union workers who had been laid off since the mill closed. The Quebec government was only too happy to lend him the funds needed for the conversion. Also, the Quebec and federal governments were willing to help fund a green 25-megawatt co-generation power plant fueled with wood waste and other biomass. 


The mill will begin turning out dissolving cellulose in 2011, but in the meantime Fortress also got lucky. The NBHK market, which was in a severe downturn, turned up because of factors such as the Chile earthquake and a strike in Sweden. Suddenly, the plant that was closed because of low NBHK prices was turning a profit that will continue during the conversion.


Lessons

• Get out of the groove. People tend to get caught up in groupthink. Wasilenkoff could see an opportunity because he takes a contrarian and long-term view of his and other industries. 


• Think like an investor. Fortress earlier moved into wallpaper because a new method had appeared that made it profitable. Wasilenkoff determined that the Thurso mill was low risk and high return. 


• Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Look at everything around you from many angles. Wasilenkoff was able to make his decision because Fortress wasn’t a typical forest products company, which is usually concerned more with cost-cutting than its product mix.

By Tony Wanless for BC Business. July 7, 2010.

SOURCE:
BC Business: “Outside The Box Business Strategies”

Fortress Paper Appoints Key Dissolving Pulp Managers for the Conversion of its Thurso Mill

Posted: Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwire – June 3, 2010) – Fortress Paper Ltd. (TSX:FTP) (“Fortress Paper” or the “Corporation”) announces the following appointments at its wholly-owned subsidiary, Fortress Specialty Cellulose Inc. (“Fortress Specialty”): Peter Vinall as President and Chief Executive Officer, Vincent Byrne as Vice President, Technical Development and Donald Deer as Projects Leader. In addition, Fortress Specialty has added Pierre Monahan to its Board of Directors.

In announcing the appointments, Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of Fortress Paper commented: “We are very pleased to have someone of Peter Vinall’s extensive experience and track record joining our team. His appointment brings a wealth of experience in running some of the largest dissolving pulp mills in the world and he has a talent for building strong teams and leading business transformations. With Vince Byrne, Donald Deer, Marco Veilleux and Pierre Monahan, we will have an experienced team in place to implement our business plan at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill.”

Peter Vinall commented: “Having recently relocated back to Canada, I am excited to now join the Fortress team and lead the conversion of the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill into a high quality specialty cellulose mill. The Mill has good access to fibre supply and a reputation for high quality NBHK production which will continue with the restart which is underway. Our aim is to leverage these strengths and transform the asset base with extensive technological upgrades and a state of the art cogeneration facility with the goal of becoming a low cost producer and industry leader in the specialty cellulose sector.”

Mr. Vinall has approximately 30 years of experience in the pulp and paper industry and was the former President of Sateri International Pulp Group, a global leader in the specialty cellulose business. Prior to joining Fortress Specialty, Mr. Vinall held the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of AV Group where he led the conversion of an NBHK pulp mill to produce dissolving pulp. Mr. Vinall obtained an MBA from Tulane University, New Orleans, and a B.E in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Vincent Byrne has over 30 years of engineering, operations and process optimization experience focused on commodity and specialty pulping processes. Most recently he acted as VP Technical and Engineering at AV Group where he led the development of the conversion of one of their New Brunswick mills into a dissolving pulp operation. Mr. Byrne obtained a B.Sc. in Chemistry from Massey University, New Zealand.

Donald Deer has approximately 40 years of engineering and construction experience in Canada and has managed in excess of $1 billion in capital spending for several major corporations including Tembec Inc. Most recently, Mr. Deer was responsible for construction and completion of the conversion of one of AV Group’s NBHK mills into a dissolving pulp operation. Mr. Deer also has recent experience designing cogeneration and energy optimization projects. Donald Deer has a B.E in Electrical Engineering from Queens University, Ontario and is a member of Professional Engineers Ontario.

Pierre Monahan is a highly experienced senior board member and executive director. Mr. Monahan was formerly the CEO of Alliance Forest Products Inc. and Executive Vice President of Bowater Canada Inc. during which time he oversaw its integration with Alliance Forest Products Inc., an acquisition valued at approximately $1 billion.

In addition Fortress announces that the former Operations Director of Fraser Paper’s Thurso Mill, Marco Veilleux, has been appointed Chief Operating Officer of Fortress Specialty Cellulose. Mr. Veilleux has led the Thurso operation since 2007 having developed his career in a series of operational and technical leadership roles in the pulp and paper sector in Eastern Canada. He was instrumental in initiating the cogeneration project and ensuring the Thurso assets are well positioned for the transformation. Mr. Veilleux has a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Sherbrooke.

About Fortress Paper

Fortress Paper is a leading international producer of security and other specialty papers and products. Fortress Paper operates three mills, the Landqart Mill located in Switzerland, the Dresden Mill located in Germany and the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill located in Quebec, Canada. Fortress Paper’s security papers include banknote, passport and visa papers and its specialty papers include non-woven wallpaper base products, and graphic and technical papers. Fortress Paper’s pulp business will include NBHK with the re-start of the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill with plans to convert this capacity into dissolving pulp production along with the construction of a biomass based cogeneration plant.

This news release contains certain forward-looking statements that reflect the current views and/or expectations of Fortress Paper with respect to its performance, business and future events, including statements relating to its plans to re-start, convert and build a biomass based cogeneration plant at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill. Forward-looking statements are based on the then-current expectations, beliefs, assumptions, estimates and forecasts about the business and the industry and markets in which the Corporation operates, including assumptions relating to the Corporation’s ability to successfully implement its business plan in respect of the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill; that the Corporation will be able to receive all required approvals and complete construction of the cogeneration facility; and the expected effects of the cogeneration facility on the business of the Corporation. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions which are difficult to predict. Investors are cautioned that all forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties including, without limitation, that the Corporation will be unable to implement its business plan in respect of the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill as planned or at all; that the Corporation will be unable to receive all necessary approvals to begin construction of the cogeneration facility; and those risks relating to changes in the market, potential downturns in economic conditions, fluctuations in the price and supply of raw materials, foreign exchange fluctuations, labour relations, regulatory requirements, reputation, competition, dependence on major customers, and other risk factors listed from time to time in the Corporation’s public filings. These risks, as well as others, could cause actual results and events to vary significantly. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements and information, which are qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement. Fortress Paper does not undertake any obligations to release publicly any revisions for updating any voluntary forward-looking statements, except as required by applicable securities law.

SOURCE:
Fortress Paper Ltd.

Pulp and Paper Canada: “Thurso’s Future Secure with Fortress”

Posted: Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

There’s a new kid on the block and he’s playing by a different set of rules. Brimming with confidence, enthusiasm, and steadfast resolution to succeed, Fortress Paper offers a fresh perspective for Canada’s pulp and paper sector.

With its recent acquisition of the idled Thurso pulp mill located in the Outaouais region of western Quebec, Vancouver-based Fortress Paper plans not only to make a splash on the market, but a significant profit, too. By ditching the production of northern bleached hardwood kraft pulp in favour of manufacturing dissolving pulp, the company is confident it won’t fall prey to the relentless profit losses so many Canadian forestry companies have witnessed.

“We’re expecting to generate $60 million (EBITDA) but could potentially see profits in the order of $200 million,” says Chad Wasilenkoff, president and CEO of Fortress Paper, with a confidence not often heard in this industry.

Wasilenkoff refers to himself as a “contrarian” investor, as he keeps a punctilious eye on industries widely considered to be depressed, only to pounce on opportunities to grab world class assets at heftily discounted prices. For his $3 million* purchase price, Wasilenkoff pocketed $85 million worth of assets in buying the Thurso facility from insolvent Fraser Papers.

Fortress Paper currently owns and operates two pulp mills in Europe — in Germany and Switzerland. With an emphasis on specialty papers, the company’s product portfolio includes non-woven wallpaper base products, graphic papers, and technical papers. Fortress officially incorporated in 2006, with the intention of taking a closer look at investments in the forestry sector. The company was not specifically seeking to invest in Canada, but had been observing the dissolving pulp market for a number of years. When the Thurso pulp mill came on the market, the timing and price were compelling.

The acquisition is also welcome news to the 320 people formerly employed by the mill, who will, with only a few minor exceptions, be back on the job in June 2010.

“The Quebec government was very interested in getting people back to work,” Wasilenkoff confirmed. “We were informed that not only does the mill provide work for 320 people, but an additional 2900 indirect jobs are supported by the operation, as well.” The provincial government’s motivation to see the facility up and running translated to a cash infusion of $102 million, in the form of a 10-year loan.

It’s money that Wasilenkoff anticipates no difficultly in repaying. “We’re extremely comfortable with the underlying fundamentals,” he says, explaining the overall growth in the market his newly purposed mill will be supplying. “Asia will be our biggest market, and the textile industry there is very strong. As more and more people move into middle income brackets, research indicates consumption of clothing increases, and yet, cotton is an expensive material to produce. Rayon has very similar characteristics to cotton but is more absorbent and breathable, and is less expensive to produce. As a result, the finished product almost always trades at a premium compared to cotton. We consider this to be a very, very low-risk and high-return venture.”

Fortress has two additional multi-million dollar goodies in its bag: the company is entitled to $10 million from the federal Green Transformation Program, as well as $15 million from the Green Infrastructure Fund. Both are initiatives designed to encourage green energy generation and environmentally-friendly production upgrades. Fortress’ decision to construct a biomass-based cogeneration plant at the facility to produce green electricity positioned the company to benefit from these grants.

The mill won’t be making an immediate switch from NBHK production to dissolving pulp, however. Thurso will continue to churn out kraft pulp for another full year before producing its new product line starting in June 2011. Once the transition is over, the mill will produce 200,000 tonnes of air-dried product annually. The company plans to capitalize on bolstered demand for NBHK first. Wasilenkoff expects the restructuring to be a smooth process, however, as it requires very little in the way of retrofitting. Much of the equipment currently in the mill will be suitable for the production of dissolving pulp as it shares much in common with the process of manufacturing NBHK.

With a secure and reasonably priced fibre source (the company has a 50% Crown allocation), a ready-made labour force, and strong market fundamentals, Fortress appears poised for success. Coupled with Chad Wasilenkoff’s unstoppable “can-do” attitude, Canada’s pulp and paper sector may have a new market leader, and mentor, for the future.

* After price adjustments, Wasilenkoff notes, the final price paid for the Thurso facility may be in the order of $900,000.

By Heather Lynch for Pulp and Paper Canada. June 2, 2010.

SOURCE:
Pulp and Paper Canada: “Thurso’s Future Secure with Fortress”

Pulp And Paper Canada: “Fortress Paper’s Thurso Mill Resumes Production Ahead of Schedule”

Posted: Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Fortress Specialty Cellulose Inc. began production and sale of NBHK pulp from the company’s mill in Thurso, Que., on May 28. The mill reopened May 1 after being shut down by its former owner in early 2009.

Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of parent company Fortress Paper Ltd., commented: “We are pleased that production has commenced ahead of schedule and this will enable us to take advantage of the current strong NBHK pulp prices.”

Fortress Specialty’s Thurso Mill is expected to produce approximately 250,000 air dried metric tonnes per annum of high grade northern bleached hardwood kraft pulp. Fortress Specialty intends to produce NBHK pulp while undergoing transformation to become a dissolving pulp producer in mid 2011.

SOURCE:
Pulp And Paper Canada: “Fortress Paper’s Thurso Mill Resumes Production Ahead of Schedule”

NBHK Pulp Production Begins at Fortress Paper’s Thurso Mill

Posted: Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwire – June 1, 2010) – Fortress Paper Ltd. (“Fortress Paper” or the “Corporation”) (TSX:FTP) announces that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Fortress Specialty Cellulose Inc. (“Fortress Specialty”), commenced production and sale of NBHK pulp on May 28th. The mill reopened May 1st after being shut down by the former owner in early 2009.
Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of Fortress Paper Ltd. commented: “The commencement of production at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill marks the achievement of an important milestone at Thurso. We are pleased that production has commenced ahead of schedule and this will enable us to take advantage of the current strong NBHK pulp prices.”

Fortress Specialty’s Thurso Mill is expected to produce approximately 250,000 air dried metric tonnes per annum of high grade northern bleached hardwood kraft pulp. Fortress Specialty intends to produce NBHK pulp while undergoing transformation to become a dissolving pulp producer in mid 2011.

About Fortress Paper

Fortress Paper is a leading international producer of security and other specialty papers and products. Fortress Paper operates three mills, the Landqart Mill located in Switzerland, the Dresden Mill located in Germany and the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill located in Quebec, Canada. Fortress Paper’s security papers include banknote, passport and visa papers and its specialty papers include non-woven wallpaper base products, and graphic and technical papers. Fortress Paper’s pulp business will include NBHK with the re-start of the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill with plans to convert this capacity into dissolving pulp production along with the construction of a biomass based cogeneration plant.

This news release contains certain forward-looking statements that reflect the current views and/or expectations of Fortress Paper with respect to its performance, business and future events, including statements relating to its plans to re-start, convert and build a biomass based cogeneration plant at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill. Forward-looking statements are based on the then-current expectations, beliefs, assumptions, estimates and forecasts about the business and the industry and markets in which the Corporation operates, including assumptions relating to the Corporation’s ability to successfully implement its business plan in respect of the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill; that the Corporation will be able to receive all required approvals and complete construction of the cogeneration facility; and the expected effects of the cogeneration facility on the business of the Corporation. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions which are difficult to predict. Investors are cautioned that all forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties including, without limitation, that the Corporation will be unable to implement its business plan in respect of the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill as planned or at all; that the Corporation will be unable to receive all necessary approvals to begin construction of the cogeneration facility; and those risks relating to changes in the market, potential downturns in economic conditions, fluctuations in the price and supply of raw materials, foreign exchange fluctuations, labour relations, regulatory requirements, reputation, competition, dependence on major customers, and other risk factors listed from time to time in the Corporation’s public filings. These risks, as well as others, could cause actual results and events to vary significantly. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements and information, which are qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement. Fortress Paper does not undertake any obligations to release publicly any revisions for updating any voluntary forward-looking statements, except as required by applicable securities law.

SOURCE:
Fortress Paper Ltd.