Abitibi Converts Canadian Machine, Idles U.S. Mill

By: Jim Rosenberg

Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. announced Wednesday that on Dec. 23 it will indefinitely idle its newsprint mill in Sheldon, Texas, an operation with capacity for 472,000 metric tons per year.

In Canada, North America’s largest newsprint maker is permanently removing 170,000 metric tons of newsprint from annual production by converting a machine at its mill in Alma, Quebec, to a product it calls Equal Offset. That product is a grade produced in Ontario since 1995 as an economical product for users of uncoated freesheet in certain types of books and maps.

The Montreal-based company said the Quebec and Texas mills’ customers will be supplied with newsprint from other Abitibi mills.

The decision to idle the Sheldon mill (where one the three machines has been idled for more than a year) was attributed to the slow recovery in North American newsprint demand. But whereas the company characterizes Sheldon as high-cost newsprint capacity, as demand improves, it will “maximize asset utilization” by restarting the idled newsprint machine in Lufkin, Texas, probably early next year.

“The focus of the … downtime will reduce costs by approximately $50 million in 2003 across the organization,” said Abitibi CEO John Weaver.

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