Posts Tagged ‘specialty papers’

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”

The Globe and Mail lists Fortress Paper as a prime investment

Posted: Friday, February 26th, 2010

Over the past few weeks The Globe and Mail‘s Report on Business section has been taking a look at company stocks that tend to do well in the early stages of an economic rebound. According to Globe and Mail analysts, microcap companies – publicly traded companies that have a market capitalization of roughly US$250 million or less – tend to thrive in these post-crisis conditions.

This week, The Globe and Mail selected Fortress Paper as a microcap company poised to do big things in the coming months:

Fortress Paper Ltd., which has mills in Germany and Switzerland, makes security (such as currency notes) and specialty papers as well as wallpaper.

“It definitely has above-average profitability compared to other businesses that operate in the pulp-and-paper segment,” said Ralph Lindenblatt of Bissett Investment Management, a unit of Franklin Templeton Investments Corp.

“They have a proven management team, a self-sustaining business plan, strong balance sheet and opportunities to grow the business.”

The stock is “very attractively valued,” trading at 11 times trailing earnings, he added.

SOURCE:
The Globe and Mail: “Microcap growth at a reasonable price”

Fortress Paper Announces Signing of EUR 18.5 Million Loan for PM1 Rebuild

Posted: Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Fortress Paper Ltd. (TSX:FTP) www.fortresspaper.com (“Fortress Paper” or the “Corporation”) announces the signing by its wholly-owned subsidiary Dresden Papier GmbH (“Dresden”) of a loan agreement for EUR 18.5 million (CDN $26.5M) with GE Capital Bank AG in connection with the rebuild of Landqart AG’s (“Landqart”) papermachine no. 1 (“PM1″) to produce banknote papers. The loan agreement is for a 7 year term, fixed for the first 3 years at 7.09% per annum beginning after final drawdown which is anticipated to be early 2011. During the drawdown period, interest only payments will be required at 6.20% per annum.

The Dresden loan in conjunction with the previously announced Dresden factoring agreement for up to EUR 12 million, the Landqart factoring agreement to be finalized together with cash on hand will provide the necessary financing and cashflow for the rebuild of the PM1 machine. The rebuild increases Fortress’ banknote production capacity from the current 2,500 tonnes per annum to approximately 10,000 tonnes per annum.

PM1 is currently utilized for lower margin specialty papers and low to medium security papers. The rebuild is expected to be completed by the end of 2010, with banknote papers production from this rebuilt machine scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2011.

SOURCE:
MarketWire: Fortress Paper Announces Signing of EUR 18.5 Million Loan for PM1 Rebuild