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Management Side
Verso merger with BillerudKorsnäs approved by shareholders, regulators; deal to close Thursday

OHIO and WISCONSIN (From news reports) -- Verso's merger with BillerudKorsnäs AB will become official on Thursday.

According to a news release Tuesday afternoon, Verso has received all necessary approvals to complete the merger.

Verso's stockholders voted earlier this month to approve the merger, as well. About 98.5% of the stockholders voted for the merger, representing about 73% of outstanding shares.

The plan for the companies to merge was first announced in December when Verso announced it had entered into a definitive agreement under which BillerudKorsnäs, a Swedish pulp and paper company, would acquire all outstanding shares of Verso for $27 per share, or approximately $825 million. As of Tuesday, Verso's stock was worth $26.95.

It is unclear the Swedish company has planned for the Wisconsin Rapids mill. On a press and analyst conference call in December, Christoph Michalski, president and CEO of BillerudKorsnäs, called the Wisconsin Rapids mill the largest "minor asset" in the acquisition and explained the facility is currently in use as a converting facility, but productions of paper and pulp are idle.

At the time, Michalski said the company did not intend to fire up the Wisconsin Rapids mill, but would consider the future for that site, as well as the hydroelectric power company that will come with the acquisition. The company will determine what the best solution is for the Wisconsin Rapids site, including whether it will keep or sell it.

One group - the Consolidated Cooperative - is interested in either working with BillerudKorsnäs or purchasing the Wisconsin Rapids mill and running it independently. The Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association created the group with plans to enlist members of the Timber Professionals Cooperative, community members and millworkers to own and run the mill. The effort aims to boost industries like trucking and logging that were affected by the mill's shutdown.

Dennis Schoeneck, with the Consolidated Cooperative, said the group reached out to BillerudKorsnäs when the merger was announced in December, but the company told the cooperative it would not discuss any plans for the Wisconsin Rapids mill.

State Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, one of the leaders of the Wisconsin Rapids Together Task Force that was created to help restart the local mill, said there are no concrete plans from BillerudKorsnäs on the future of the Wisconsin Rapids mill.

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