Sale of Résolu to Domtar: jobs in Gatineau will be maintained, promises the buyer

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Sale of Resolute to Domtar: jobs in Gatineau will be maintained, promises the buyer

Resolute Forest Products paper mill in Gatineau Excellence paper, in the coming months. More than 130 people work for the company in the region.

Resolute Forest Products would therefore change from a public company to a private company, subject to a shareholder vote to be held in the coming months. The transaction is valued at US$2.7 billion. It's a new page in the already rich history of Resolute, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2020, said Louis Bouchard, Senior Director, Public Affairs and Government Relations for Canada at Resolute Forest Products.

This represents growth for Resolute Forest Products, which will be able to accelerate its transformation program, to accelerate investments in strategic projects that have already been chosen or are yet to be defined, continues Mr. Bouchard.

According to him, the newsprint sector is losing ground.

Good year, bad year, we are witnessing a decrease of 12 to 15%. This decline has accelerated sharply with the COVID-19 crisis which has hit the entire globe, explains Louis Bouchard.

Louis Bouchard, Senior Director, Public Affairs and Government Relations for Canada at Resolute Forest Products ( archives)

It is in this context that the new buyer of Resolute wishes to quickly initiate a feasibility study on the conversion of the plant so that it produces wrapping paper instead.

We will continue to operate under the Resolute banner, and the Paper Excellence group fully supports the current management's strategic plan. Other than natural attrition, caused by retirements or voluntary departures, there is no reduction in the workforce to be expected, assures Mr. Bouchard.

Groupe Papier Excellence wishes to diversify its activities by acquiring Resolute, particularly in lumber.

We believe that medium and long-term demand will be very strong. Currently, in North America, there is a deficit of 4.5 million residences. We can see a very strong, sustained demand for the next decade, explained Patrick Loulou, Vice-Chairman of the Board and Chief Strategy Officer for Groupe Papier Excellence.

“We really like the approach that governments have taken to forest management in Eastern Canada, especially when compared to what is happening in British Columbia where there are serious supply problems, where there have been big cuts in stumpage fees for West Coast sawyers.

— Patrick Loulou, Vice Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer, Groupe Papier Excellence

Groupe Papier Excellence was also seduced by the quality of the team in place at Resolute. Patrick Loulou believes that the two corporate cultures are complementary.

Top management is dynamic, knowledgeable, has experience in the field that we do not have. We believe that there is a very good cultural match, continues Mr. Loulou.

Patrick Loulou, Vice Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer for Groupe Papier Excellence, sees growth for the Résolu plant in Gatineau

The feasibility study concerning the conversion of the Gatineau plant to manufacture wrapping paper will, according to him, take between 18 and 24 months. The complete transformation process is expected to take a total of 4-5 years.

Yes, there are economic risks right now, but you know, this is the kind of decision we make for the next 40 years, added Mr. Loulou.

This transaction occurs in the midst of a labor shortage crisis, which is not sparing Resolute Forest Products.

“We have more than a hundred positions, almost 200, that are open and that we would like to fill as soon as possible. »

— Louis Bouchard, Senior Director, Public Affairs and Government Relations for Canada at Resolute Forest Products

Resolute Forest Products also has plants in Amos and Baie-Comeau. The transaction process is expected to take eight to nine months, according to Mr. Bouchard.

Daniel Cloutier, who is the Quebec director of Unifor, the union representing the employees of the Gatineau plant, does not hesitate to speak of a major transaction, but reserves his comments until we know the details of the transaction. We are going to propose a meeting with Domtar in the very near future to better understand the plan it is putting forward. For now, what we want is to keep jobs, explains Mr. Cloutier.

A previous version of this text identified Daniel Cloutier as the president of the union of employees at the Resolute Forest Papers plant in Gatineau. However, Mr. Cloutier is, in fact, the position of Quebec director of the Unifor union. The union president of Unifor Local 142 at the Resolute Forest Papers plant in Gatineau is Rémi Landry.

Resolute Forest Papers, in Gatineau

The union is thus in favor of a transformation of the plant, as long as this has the effect of consolidating jobs. However, he wondered about the fate that awaited the Amos and Baie-Comeau factories. This is one of the question marks that does not appear in this morning's announcement, continues Mr. Cloutier.

If that happens, that would be good news. That would allow us to consolidate the Gatineau plant. It is an important factory. So that seems to be positive news. However, we don't have a lot of details about that, about the form it could take. We will inquire about that in the coming weeks, concludes Daniel Cloutier.

For his part, the Minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon , explains, through its director of communications, Mathieu St-Amand, that he wants to work with Groupe Papier Excellence.

It's always a shame when a company with a head office in Quebec is sold. That said, Resolute was already owned by Canadian interests. The new buyer, Groupe Papier Excellence, wants to maintain the jobs at the head office in Montreal and we will work with them in this regard. Since 2018, we have invested more than $250 million in companies wishing to strengthen their head office in Quebec, writes Mr. St-Amand, in an email sent to Radio-Canada.

With information from Gabriel Le Marquand Perreault and Christian Milette

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