RISI’s 2018 Top 50 Power List


Welcome to the 11th Top 50 Power List.

For the first time, we feature an institution, rather than an individual, at the top of the list. There is no doubting the influence the Peoples’ Republic of China has had on the industry, dating back a couple of decades but intensifying recently, particularly with its ban on many grades of recovered paper.

When we look at our highest-ranked individual, the mega-merger of Fibria and Suzano certainly casts the spotlight upon Walter Schalka. For good reason he has been chosen RISI’s Latin American CEO of the Year four years running. International Paper has also garnered its share of headlines with its hostile bid for Smurfit Kappa. As of June 6, the bid has been withdrawn—but is this the end of the story, or just the prequel to another summer blockbuster next year?

We hope you enjoy this year’s list. You will find a few more surprises, some new faces, and as always a keen look at how our remarkable industry keeps growing and changing. This is not a scientific study, nor is it a popularity contest; it is purely a ranking put together by the editorial team after speaking to a lot of pulp and paper industry experts from around the world. (As in the past, we’ve chosen to concentrate on leaders from the manufacturing side of our industry.)

We would really like to hear from you as to who we might have missed, or, indeed, who should not be on the list at all! Contact Graeme Rodden at [email protected], or Mark Rushton at [email protected], with your own thoughts on who really wields the power in pulp, paper, and packaging.

“Crazy like a fox” is how RISI’s Chief Economic Advisor Rod Young described the government of China during PaperCon 2018. China’s recovered paper policy has not only affected the RCP market, but the global paper industry. In early May, China announced it would inspect 100 percent of all US shipments to China. A major exporter claimed China’s action was “not because of issues” in terms of low-quality US material being shipped into China. Contacts surmised the sudden move by China was related to ongoing trade disputes with the US. Other Asian countries’ policies concerning contaminant levels are also becoming stricter. Now, Young added, some Chinese companies are looking at investing in shuttered US mills to convert them to recycled pulp, thus leaving the waste in the US. He added that there are no indications the Chinese government will loosen its restrictions any time soon, saying the current situation could last two to three years.

It’s all over our TV screens, on news sites, and on the front pages of newspapers around the world: plastics are killing our oceans and the wildlife that resides within them and on their surfaces. A lot of the offending plastic bits are single-use products, like plastic bags, water bottles, or snack wrappers. According to statistics, each year there are 300 million tons of plastic produced globally, of which 10 percent will end up in the sea. There is also the problem of microplastics being digested by sea creatures and birds across the world. The pulp and paper industries have a great business opportunity to replace most plastics in packaging, and microplastics, with cellulose-based alternatives. But it’s more important than “just business.” We have a moral obligation—if we have solutions to the plastics problem, then they must be brought to the table, right now.

As well as recently being named RISI’s Latin American CEO of the Year for the fourth consecutive time in 2018, and successfully leading his company into the tissue sector, Schalka is now leading Suzano into its biggest venture yet, a merger with Fibria that creates an 11-million metric tpy market pulp behemoth. If all goes well, the merger should be complete by late 2019. Fibria is the world’s largest market pulp producer and had been romanced by Paper Excellence prior to the deal with Suzano being announced. Although both Suzano and Fibria have new mills about to come online, future expansion plans have been put on hold while both companies concentrate on the deal.

Since joining IP in 1984 as an engineer, Sutton has spent his entire career with the company, growing into the role as a leader who embodies the “IP Way Forward.” Shareholders have seen increases in annual dividends for six years straight, and IP remains an industry leader committed to growth using a strategy Sutton summarizes as “building advantaged positions, and serving attractive markets,” particularly in the company’s pulp and corrugated packaging businesses. European packaging market leader Smurfit Kappa Group’s stock soared 22 percent when the company rejected IP’s takeover bid in March 2018; in late May, a group of three shareholders (including British asset management firm Janus Henderson Group PLC) urged the company to begin working toward an agreement with IP. Though IP had indicated it may have been willing to sweeten the deal, on June 6 the company dropped its bid due to a lack of engagement. Under Irish Takeover Panel Rules, IP cannot make another attempt to acquire SKG for 12 months.

RISI’s Asian CEO of the Year for 2018 heads up China’s third largest producer of paper, board, and tissue, but it’s Shanying’s international market exploration that has attracted the most attention. Last year the company acquired a 100 percent stake in Sweden-based specialty paper producer Nordic Paper for US$288 million. Added to this, RISI recently reported that Shanying International is set to take a majority stake in Boreal Bioref, a Finnish company planning to build a 500,000 tpy pulp and bioproducts mill in northern Finland, a move that will triple the company’s pulp capacity over the next three years.

Making good on a promise made last year to spend US$2 billion over the next 10 years in the US, Pratt announced the decision to go ahead with a new mill in the state of Ohio that will be able to produce 400,000 tpy of corrugated medium and linerboard from a 100 percent recycled furnish. The investment in the new mill will total US$275 million. However, Pratt’s largesse is not confined to the US. The family-owned Australian firm, Visy Industries, will also benefit from another US$2 billion that Pratt has pledged to invest, adding 5,000 new jobs in his native Australia.

Already a giant in Asia, particularly in China, Nine Dragons is making its first move into the US with the purchase of two Catalyst Paper mills in ME and WI. The mills come complete with five paper machines and integrated and market pulp capacity totaling up to 979,00 tpy. Nine Dragons says the acquisition will provide the company with “high quality virgin fiber, resulting in increased access to a more secure and cost-effective channel for raw material supply.” Speaking to RISI, Cheung Yan says, “The acquisition will improve on our global customer base as well as expand our market pulp capacity.” Nine Dragons has annual sales of more than US$8billion and a total capacity of 14.05 million metric tpy.

WestRock continues to grow. The company’s US$4.9 billion merger with KapStone Paper and Packaging is still on track, despite extra scrutiny from the US Department of Justice. The reassurance comes after both companies reported in financial filings that the Department of Justice has requested additional information about the deal under federal antitrust laws. The move broadens WestRock’s paper and packaging offerings and significantly improves its presence on the US West Coast. It adds three million tons of paper to the company’s capacity. In a smaller acquisition, in early 2018 WestRock announced it would acquire Plymouth Packaging. The company also announced it would invest US$410 million on a new kraft linerboard machine at its mill in Florence, SC, replacing three older, narrower machines.

RISI’s European CEO of the Year continues to lead DS Smith into new and exciting areas with strategic acquisitions. North America seems to have appeal recently; just last year DS Smith acquired a majority stake in Interstate Resources, which has been quickly followed by another acquisition, Corrugated Container Corporation, announced in May. Closer to home, the acquisition fervor continues with the recently-announced purchase of Europac, a Spanish listed packaging giant. In a recent interview with RISI, Roberts reported, “Our vision is to be the leading supplier of packaging solutions, working with our customers to minimize the impact on the environment we live in. It is an exciting time to be in the packaging market!”

It’s déjà vu all over again for the Asian giant APP as another fallout occurs with NGO Greenpeace over alleged deforestation in Indonesia. In May this year Greenpeace ended “all further engagements” with the company over 8000 ha of forest and peatland clearance in two concessions which, it says, are linked through ownership to APP and the Sinar Mas Group. APP is currently engaging a third-party auditor to look into the allegations. This disagreement is disappointing as both APP and Greenpeace have worked hard together over the last five years to make progress on contentious issues. Elsewhere, things look a bit brighter as Paper Excellence, owned by the Wijaya family, was given the go-ahead last year to take over Latin American pulp giant Eldorado, which has seen revenue rise by 60 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

Stora Enso, under Sundström’s leadership, is looking stable and is even breaking records when it comes to financials, with consumer board and biomaterials divisions in particular good health, according to the reporting of the first quarter results this year. The company has a strong and creative approach to packaging and biomaterials innovations with an emphasis on replacing plastic products. Most recently the company opened Europe’s largest wood fiber-based biocomposite plant in southern Sweden and teamed up with the Swedish University of Agricultural sciences to further its transformation into a renewable materials company. As well as CEO of Stora Enso, Sundström is also the current chairman of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI).

In late 2017, GPI acquired International Paper’s consumer packaging business in a US$1.8-billion deal. In the sector, analysts believe more forward integration in the containerboard/box business is in the works because good market and cost synergies are possible. Elsewhere, work is on schedule for the completion by year’s end of GPI’s US$154-million carton plant and logistics center in Louisiana. Doss is active in the industry as a whole, recently being elected an officer of the Paper and Packaging Board and reelected to the board of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Under Pesonen’s solid leadership, the Finnish giant continues to succeed in what it calls “the forest based bioindustry.” And it is doing well; operating profit has increased by 23.4 percent compared to last year, and the areas of energy and biorefining (pulp and biodiesel) are booming. These profits come despite the continued decline in graphic paper demand of up to 7 percent in the markets it operates in. On the pulp expansion side abroad, UPM has begun “Phase II” of its preparations for a possible new pulp mill in Uruguay with the final decision being expected after March 2019.

It’s business as usual at SKG despite the relentless recent pursuit of International Paper to acquire the Irish-headquartered giant. In a recent statement relating to the pursuit by IP, SKG’s management says it believes “in superior performance and prospects as an independent business.” IP has subsequently dropped its acquisition plans and under Irish Takeover Panel Rules it cannot make another approach for at least 12 months. Life goes on as SKG continues with its own acquisition of privately-owned Reparenco, a paper/paperboard mill with two machines located in the Netherlands.

With Williams a perennial member of this list, Domtar’s diversification continues to bring good results. Even graphic paper markets are showing some promise. Its investments in crystalline nano-cellulose and lignin are also showing more promise as time goes on. At its Plymouth, NC, mill, Domtar is now using state-of-the-art extruding equipment to deliver commercial-grade lignin in dried, compounded and modified lignin granules/pellets, as well as lignin-polymer blends. Its research team collaborated with the National Research Council Canada to develop lignin pellets and lignin-polymer compound pellets. Lignin pellets are changing the conversation about the use of biomaterials in industrial products. An early trial with agricultural films is proving a success, and more projects are underway.

Mondi continues to thrive under Oswald’s first full year of leadership as the company’s group CEO, with revenues of EUR 7.1 billion (US$8.3 billion) and underlying EBITDA of EUR 1.4 billion (US$1.4 billion). Mondi was recently in the news as it completed the acquisition of the Finnish-based Powerflute Group for EUR 365 million ($431 million). Powerflute operates an integrated mill with an annual production of 285,000 metric tpy of high performance semi-chemical fluting.

Shandong Sun Paper Industry continues on with its expansion plans at home and mulls decisions abroad. It recently fired up a 200,000 metric tpy fine paper machine at its flagship mill in Yanzhou City, Shandong Province, China. It is also building two new recycled containerboard machines at the mill with a combined capacity of 700,000 metric tpy. Meanwhile, in the US, Sun Paper’s plans for a pulp mill positioned in Arkansas are undergoing review as to what the greenfield mill will actually make—dissolving pulp, or possibly kraft linerboard.

It is not always only about the mill or the product. Georgia-Pacific announced that it will bring together leading supply chain companies to develop solutions within its new Point A Center for Supply Chain Innovation. Opening in June in an initial 15,000-square-foot space at Atlanta’s TechSquare Labs, the Point A Center will serve as a collaborative space for businesses ranging from multi-national corporations to emerging startups and academic institutions.
Point A’s members will explore use cases for applying Industry 4.0 innovations—including robotics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, and autonomous vehicles, among others—to tackle some of the supply chain’s most pressing challenges, including retail models, network efficiency, and data visibility. Another effort is aimed at millennials, showing them the advantages of considering a career in manufacturing; the nature and earning potential of manufacturing work are changing as demand for skilled trade workers surges. As for the first points, G-P has not forgotten about them, with efforts aimed at sustainability, energy, recycling, and an improved tissue product.

Continuing on its successful march as one of the largest containerboard producers in China—now over 6 million tpy—Lee & Man is becoming something of a tissue giant as well. As a relatively new entrant into China’s tissue market, the company already produces an annual volume of 685,000 tons of tissue, which will ramp up to 795,000 tons as two new lines come on stream this year. The group recently released its 2017 results announcing net profit was up by 76 percent to HK5.04 billion (US$640 million).

The machines in Sofidel’s new mill in Ohio have not even started up and Sofidel is growing further with the announcement that the company will outlay US$360 million for two more tissue machines along with two converting lines at a mill to be built in Inola, OK. Capacity at Inola will be 132,000 tpy, toweling and toilet tissue. Formed just over 50 years ago, Sofidel is already No. 6 in tissue capacity in the world. As private labels have grown, Sofidel has prospered and, according to Vertical Research Partners, “is positioning itself to be a key supplier in the USA,” especially with two German retailers that have entered the US market, Aldi and Lidl, and which are known to be heavy discounters.

The company has been active and is strengthening its position in the US containerboard market. It has four plants in the US Northeast, including a new site in New Jersey that was due for a 2Q startup. The acquisition of the 66.67 percent interest in the Italian boxboard processing company PAC Service was concluded by the European boxboard division at the beginning of the year. On the tissue side, Cascades recently opened a new converting plant in Oregon. Commenting on first quarter results, Plourde said, “Our consolidated first quarter performance improved both year-over-year and sequentially in terms of sales levels, shipments, and operating income. Year-over-year, first quarter results were supported by a strong performance from our European boxboard subsidiary Reno de Medici, driven by strong market conditions, selling price improvement, and lower raw material costs.” The containerboard packaging division similarly generated stronger results, reflecting the April 2017 consolidation of the Greenpac Mill, strong industry fundamentals, and higher average realized selling prices.

Picking up the reins from former CEO of the Metsä Group, Kari Jordan, Härmälä takes the lead of one of the most progressive forest products groups in Europe, perhaps even the world. In the news lately has been the start-up of the Äänekoski Bioproduct mill in central Finland, which has been wowing the industry with its environmental data and innovative side-stream products. Härmälä, former CEO of Metsä Fiber, will also head up product divisions Forest, Wood, Board, and Tissue. The group recently established Metsä Spring, set up to develop partnerships in new and innovative business opportunities in forest based and circular economies.

Now well-established in market pulp with its Puma project, Klabin recently started a new bag converting line at its Lages mill in Santa Catarin State in Brazil, increasing the company’s capacity by 10 percent. Texeira said that Klabin is moving on with new studies to promote a new cycle of growth. Expansion plans include two kraftliner and boxboard machines of 400,000 to 500,000 metric tpy (due in 2020 and 2023, respectively) and a new fluff pulp line (400,000 metric tpy) by 2025. He said the kraftliner from the new machine will be top quality and an innovative product. Klabin purchased a 12.5-percent stake in Melodea Bio Based Solutions, which has technology to extract cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). It wants to use the technology for packaging applications.

Recently appointed group president, Kimberly-Clark North America, Underhill leads the company’s nearly US$8-billion North American consumer business including brands such as Huggies, Kleenex, Cottonelle, and Depends. Previously, Underhill had also served as president of K-C’s consumer business in Europe. The company has announced a US$100-million modernization of its Mobile, AL, mill, which will include an increase in capacity. K-C is also introducing Kleenex wet wipes.

Perhaps the only person to appear on this list as the head of two companies: last year Groth appeared as CEO of SCA. Now that the Swedish company split off its hygiene and health products division into Essity (a combination of essential and necessity), Groth has taken over the EUR 11.3 billion (US$13.2 billion) venture that has operations in 150 countries. It launched the first recycling service for hand towels, an achievement that was recognized by the European Parliament.

Sappi continues to reap rewards from its increasing diversification into dissolving pulp and specialty papers, as well as from price rises in printing and writing papers, particularly in Europe. In Europe, specialties and packaging papers are growing in volume and coated paper price rises helped generate sales of EUR 616 (US$735.4) million in Q2, up from EUR 581 million last year. In North America, sales were also up to US$363 million from US$335 million for the same period last year despite a US$5 million impact of lost production due to the PM 1 conversion at its Somerset mill earlier this year. Demand for dissolving pulp has meant that Sappi has swung more of its Cloquet mill’s production capacity to dissolving pulp.

Heindl is founder and CEO of Progroup, one of Europe’s leading corrugated board manufacturers, and continues to implement his fast moving “Two Twentyfive Strategy” by revealing plans to build a new 750,000 metric tpy recycled containerboard machine and mill in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Construction work will start in early 2019 with production start-up expected in mid 2020. The new mill will raise its total annual containerboard production capacity from 1.1 million metric tons to 1.85 million metric tons.

Swedish market pulp giant Södra is reporting a solid start to the year with a 90 percent increase in profit compared to last year on the back of expansion and investments at its mills over recent years. Södra is also heavily involved in R&D for bioproducts. Södra President Idermark says, “Our efforts with new innovations and sustainability continue unabated, with our investments to increase produce liquid biofuel production well on track.” Earlier this year the company announced that it had delivered 335 gigawatt hours of green electricity in 2017, equivalent to the annual consumption of 130,000 electric cars. Idermark was recently elected as the new chairman of the Swedish Forest Industries Federation.

The International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) serves as a forum of global dialogue, coordination and cooperation. ICFPA represents 17 pulp, paper, wood, and fiber-based associations that encompass 35 countries, including many of the top pulp, paper, and wood producers around the world. It has also updated its mission, broadening the scope of the organization to represent an innovative forest-based industry: “The global forest products industry has significantly invested in research and has been developing new products and technologies to make the best use of wood and fiber-based products. We are an innovative industry with a key role to play in the transition toward a greener and more sustainable economy that will benefit current and future generations,” said Molony.

TAPPI continues apace as the leading member-based technical association serving the industry and related sectors. Under Montague’s leadership, membership has grown and finances are on a very solid footing. But, the association continues to look ahead. Having completed a successful inaugural joint conference with RISI—Tissue 2017—in Miami, Tissue 2018 is set to go in Appleton, WI, in October. TAPPI also took over management of the International Forest Products Transport Association (IFPTA) at the beginning of 2018. It is busy planning for the next biennial Transport Symposium, to be held in Tarragona, Spain, in September 2019.

Incoming president and CEO Einarsson takes over the reins at the Swedish packaging specialist as it sees sales hit record highs. Earlier this year BillerudKorsnäs posted a 3.2 percent rise of sales to SEK 22.3 billion (US$2.8 billion). The firm produces packaging paper, cartonboard, and corrugated liner and fluting. Investments ongoing include restarting its 100,000 metric tpy MG machine, which was recently relocated; as well as the building of a new 550,000 metric tpy machine, KM 7, which will produce liquid packaging board, cartonboard, food service board, and liner.

A 37-year veteran of the industry, Laflamme may have wondered what he was getting into when he took over as president and CEO from the now-retired Richard Garneau in February, what with a nasty trade war with the US, labor negotiations on the table, and declining graphic paper markets. Yet, a few months later, the labor situation has been settled successfully, the company has been declared exempt from some of the punishing US tariffs, and graphic paper markets are looking better. Resolute also has a strong lumber position that will benefit from any uptick in the housing construction sector. Its pulp making capacity is also taking advantage of a strong market.

Led by President and CEO Donna Harman, the AF&PA works diligently to keep issues of concern to the US industry in front of legislators. It issued the following statement regarding a new policy on the carbon neutrality of forest-based, renewable biomass by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “We applaud the administration for reflecting long-standing scientific principles and Congressional direction in recognizing as carbon neutral the paper and wood products industry’s use of renewable biomass for energy production. This new EPA policy is an important milestone in implementing the Congressional directive to produce clear and simple policies and acknowledges the scientific record on the carbon neutrality of forest-based, renewable biomass.” The AF&PA also champions the use of paper, taking the IRS to task for denying paper-based information and services. It is also following the NAFTA talks closely.

With his feet now firmly under the table of the forest products industry after two years in the post, the director general of the Confederation of European Paper Industries is fully engaged and vocal about what the industry should be doing to secure it position in the global arena. Speaking earlier in the year regarding the potential of European forests, Lhôte said, “The EU should balance its target setting and demand-side approach with measures to increase supply. These measures should secure and improve forest growth and mobilize more wood from European forests for all kinds of uses.” On average, 60 percent of the annual growth of EU forests is harvested.

As CEO of this company—the mill in eastern Finland was acquired from Stora Enso—Hämälainen set out to be an innovator (Paper360°, May/June 2018, p. 29). It rebuilt and converted one of the mill’s two machines from graphic paper to folding boxboard and food service board. It is the latter product where Kotkamills has made its mark, successfully developing and producing a recyclable and compostable cup stock. Thus, carryout drink cups (hot or cold), long one of the bad guys on the NGOs’ hit lists, can be recycled and not sent to landfills. The mill has also had great success with its laminating papers, produced on its other paper machine, and is doing a pre-feasibility study for a new machine with a decision expected by the end of the year.

Two top research centers for the pulp and paper industry, VTT and Aalto University, both located in Finland, have teamed up to set up a competence center for “materials bioeconomy.” Named CERES, the partnership will develop new materials for packaging, advanced textiles, and separation systems as well as for semiconductors, composites, and solutions for energy harvesting and storage. The objective of Finland’s national bioeconomy strategy is to create 100,000 new jobs in the country and increase the bioeconomy output by EUR 40 (US$47.1) billion by 2025.

As a company, Kruger is striving to meet new market realities and demands. To this end, it had a successful conversion of its PM 10 at Trois-Rivières, QC, from newsprint to lightweight recycled linerboard, the largest Canadian industry expansion in containerboard since 2013. This helped push Canadian box shipments up by 9.9 percent in January 2019 compared with January 2018. This followed a 5.5 percent increase in December year-over-year. Kruger is now the No. 3 producer of containerboard in Canada. Also reflecting new realities in graphic paper, Kruger announced a CDN$377.6 million (about US$293 million) transaction to diversify operations at its Wayagamack and Brompton mills in Quebec into specialty niches such as flexible food packaging, labeling, and digital printing. The new entity is called Kruger Specialty Papers and the Government of Quebec (through Investissement Quebec) has an equity position.

Cooper joined WestRock in 2016 from Lockheed Martin, where she served as vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. She was the first woman to oversee the Lockheed Martin plant in Marietta, GA. As chief transformation officer for WestRock, Cooper is responsible for the Recycling and Waste Services Division, procurement, enterprise logistics, and information technology. Cooper was named Georgia Trend Magazine’s 2015 Most Respected Business Leader, and Woman of the Year 2015 by the American Association of University Women. Her experience, acumen, and employee-centered leadership style is expected to play a key part in helping WestRock achieve its US$1 billion synergy and performance improvement goal by the end of 2018.

39. IKEA
Global furnishing and lifestyle giant IKEA has recently made a worldwide commitment to remove all single use plastic products by 2020. Group CEO Torbjörn Lööf says, “Our ambition is to become people and planet positive by 2030 while growing the IKEA business. Through our size and reach we have the opportunity to inspire and enable more than one billion people to live better lives within the limits of the planet.” The commitments include removing all single-use plastic products from the IKEA range globally, and from customer and co-worker restaurants in stores, by 2020; designing all IKEA products with new circular principles, with the goal to use only renewable and recyclable materials; and becoming climate positive, reducing the total IKEA climate footprint by an average of 70 percent per product.

With the acquisition of Canada-based Tembec complete, Rayonier is one of the leading producers of high purity cellulose. As well, the move helps the company diversify its product offerings from pulp to paper to paperboard. “This acquisition advances our strategic growth objectives and provides an accretive and attractive value proposition for our shareholders… and allow(s) us to expand into new adjacent businesses,” Boynton said.

41. Ken Liu
Son of Nine Dragons chairlady Cheung Yan and CEO Liu Ming Chung, 26-year-old Ken Liu has been appointed to the board of the company as an executive director and deputy chairman. One of Harvard-educated Liu’s first tasks will be to head up the North American subsidiary as CEO. Nine Dragons has recently bought Catalyst Paper Corporation’s US operations, which includes a mill in Biron, WI, and another in Rumford, ME.

Rosén is often seen away from his base in Stockholm at important industry events pushing the forest products industry and its many attributes for a better planet. As VP of marketing and strategy development, Bioeconomy Division, Rosen focuses on the institute’s mission to optimize the traditional products and processes in the forest products industry while looking forward at new and innovative possibilities in the future.

Proof that there is still room for the “little guy” on this list; Mohawk is North America’s largest privately-owned maker of fine papers, envelopes, and specialty materials for printing. The company recently acquired Crane Stationery, including the three premium brands: Crane & Co., William Arthur, and Vera Wang. Mohawk also owns the Strathmore line and is known for its personalized, high-quality papers. At the NPTA Paper2018 event this past March, O’Connor said the biggest disrupter in the industry is education and that potential job prospects not being equipped with the basic skill sets needed for the industry is “the biggest thing to overcome.” Once these prospects get “past the smokestack” of the mill, they are intrigued with the operation and by the technology.

We generally do not include suppliers in this list, but the merger of BASF’s and Solenis’ paper and water chemicals businesses is one of the most significant moves among suppliers recently. It creates a Euro 2.4 billion (about US$2.8 billion) entity with Solenis holding 51 percent of the combined equity. It will operate under the Solenis name and be headquartered in Wilmington, DE. John Panichella, president and CEO of Solenis, will lead the company. It should be noted that BASF’s paper coating chemicals portfolio is not part of the transaction.

Since Paper Excellence won the war for Eldorado Celulose, Libaber has become the company’s point man in Brazil. Although his title is sales director, he is growing within the company and he may have a role to play in the future.

A brand-new event to be held this September in Ruka, Finland, is being touted as “The Davos for the Bioeconomy.” It will be held in the pristine wilderness area around Ruka in northern Finland, which makes it the perfect location to host an economic forum on the bioeconomy. In less than 40 years Finland has doubled its forest growth and is today at a level of 100 million m3 of growth per year, of which only 60 percent is utilized. The event has already attracted a host of influential speakers and panelists from the bioproduct areas, including the pulp and paper industry.

It might have ended, but the trucker strike in Brazil did some serious damage for the 11 days it lasted this year and goes to prove that the trade unions in the pulp and paper industry continue to wield power. The strike impacted the supply of food and fuel to cities and caused the interruption of production at a number of mills and packaging plants as storage space ran out. Among those producers affected, Suzano reported a production loss of around 80,000 metric tons of pulp and CMPC reported the disruption resulted in reduced production estimated at 20,000 metric tons.

Aida Greenbury makes it back onto our list this year. After building the sustainability division in the APP Group and leading the Asian paper giant in the ground-breaking Zero Deforestation movement for almost 14 years, Greenbury resigned from APP in May, 2017. But her passion in sustainable forestry practices continues. She’s been even more active as an advisor in several organizations, including Mongabay, the multi-commodity No Deforestation initiative High Carbon Approach, and the German GIZ, as well as speaking at industry events such as Shanghai Pulp Week.

It is one of, if not the most watched and anticipated sporting events in the world. With kick-off in Russia for 32 teams set for June, the world’s presses have churned out millions of special editions, catalogues, programs, and previews of the countries, teams and players taking part. Football (soccer to many) will dominate world headlines for a month.

There has been a lot of talk about Brexit across Europe for the last two years, but at last Britain’s split from Europe will finally take place in March next year. It will be interesting to see what effect the break from Europe has on the pulp and paper industry supply and demand; if the doomsayers are right it could have a serious effect on the pulp and paper industry in Britain and Europe. On the other hand, it may mean a raft of new investment in order to satisfy the 65 million users of paper and packaging products across the country.