The Commercial Court of Nanterre has postponed its decision regarding the offers made by potential buyers for three Arjowiggins’ French sites that are in administration “in order to allow the best industrial, financial and employment solutions to be found”.
The court decided yesterday (7 March) to grant a two-week postponement of the case, with the next hearing scheduled for 20 March.
The new deadline will give Norwegian pulp and paper businessman Terje Haglund until 15 March to refine the offer made by Swedish wood and paper group Lessebo, which he is a shareholder in, for Arjowiggins’ Bessé-sur-Braye, Bourray and Château-Thierry sites, which went into receivership in January.
Until last week, the bid was led by Lessebo’s sister company THLF.
Haglund confirmed to PrintWeek yesterday that Lessebo proposes to retain 413 of 580 staff working at the Bessé-sur-Braye plant, 210 of the 270 based at the Bourray plant and all 75 employees at Château-Thierry.
French media reports said Lessebo could provide €33m (£28.4m) but that its offer is conditional on state aid estimated at €32m.
An employee representative was reported in French media as saying the Lessebo offer is “too fragile” and “not sufficiently funded”, hence the request for the postponement.
Lessebo’s offer was the only bid made for three French sites. CGMP was reportedly interested in the Le Bourray plant while three other offers were made for Château-Thierry.
Haglund told PrintWeek yesterday that he is also interested in two of the UK Arjowiggins operations that are also in administration – Chartham and Stoneywood.
“That process is going on, but we are interested to apply,” he said.
Separately, at the initiative of the administrator and the creditors’ representative, a petition has been filed with the Commercial Court of Nanterre in order to turn Arjowiggins’ parent Sequana’s safeguard procedure (sauvegarde) into a receivership procedure (redressement judiciaire).
The request is based on Sequana’s inability, following last month’s decision handed down by the Court of Appeal in London in the litigation between Sequana and BAT Industries, to file a sauvegarde plan enabling it to pay off the debts taken into consideration and to finance the observation period pending the decision of the Supreme Court in England.
The Commercial Court of Nanterre is expected to hand down its decision on whether Sequana will be permitted to appeal within the next 15 days. In this context, Sequana has requested Euronext Paris to suspend trading of its shares on the Paris Stock Exchange.
Meanwhile, Antalis regional managing director for UK, Ireland and South Africa David Hunter has dismissed industry speculation that the business was facing supply issues as a result of majority shareholder Sequana’s troubles.
He told PrintWeek: “In a company of our size, where we carry a product range of around 13,000 product lines, it’s a bit difficult to be in stock of everything all the time.
“When we’re out of stock of something we have offered alternatives but there’s been no crisis.”
He added: “In terms of overall trading, I would say that January and February have been OK, it’s certainly been in line with expectations.
“We’ve had no significant service issues and it’s been absolutely business as usual. I think that there are a couple of people who maybe got confused by our relationship and that’s taken time to untangle and for them to realise that we are a completely standalone entity. There are no big issues and there’s certainly no panic.”
Sequana owns a stake of just over 75% in Antalis but last month it was revealed that Antalis will set up a new shareholding structure in the coming months, which could result in Sequana no longer being its majority shareholder.