Times Colonist

P & T’s Oregon mill bought by Ableco Finance

- ROBERT BARRON

NANAIMO — Ableco Finance is the winning bidder for bankrupt Pope & Talbot Inc.’s remaining U.S. pulp mill in Halsey, Ore., according to a union official.

Ernie Lamoureux, a representa­tive with the United Steelworke­rs, which represents about 140 of the Halsey mill’s 180 employees, said he was informed by the union’s attorney that Ableco was the winner out of five bids in an auction held Tuesday morning in Philadelph­ia.

Neither George Miller, an attorney who is the court-appointed trustee of Portland-based Pope & Talbot’s remaining U.S. assets, nor officials with Ableco could be reached to confirm the results.

It is expected Ableco, a specialtyf­inance company that is one of the Halsey mill’s two largest creditors, intends to restart the mill, at least for the short term, because Ableco contacted the union two weeks ago to work on a labour agreement, according to Lamoureux.

Pricewater­houseCoope­rs, the interim receiver for Pope & Talbot’s Canadian assets, is responsibl­e for finding interested buyers for the bankrupt forest company’s last three Canadian pulp mills — Nanaimo’s Harmac and the Mackenzie mills north of Vancouver.

All three mills have been idle since Pope & Talbot’s court-extended creditor protection ended last month, leaving about 530 employees out of work in Nanaimo.

There has been expression­s of interest from potential buyers for the Mackenzie and Harmac mills, although some are from real estate developers.

It is known that at least one company intends to tour Harmac this week to determine the viability of the mill.

Harmac’s workers and management have also banded together to prepare a business plan that would see them take over ownership of Harmac themselves or in conjunctio­n with other investors, if Pricewater­houseCoope­rs agrees with the plan.

Time is limited, however, because the bankruptcy courts may decide to terminate Western Forest Product’s commitment to supply Harmac’s vital wood fibre supply by June 13 if the mill is still idle.

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