Fastmarkets RISI’s 2019 Top 50 Power List


Welcome to the 12th Top 50 Power List.

Over the past few years, not only people, but events and issues, some of which fall outside traditional pulp and paper making, have had increasingly more influence over the industry. This year is no different.

From political topics—Brexit (again) and the US presidential election (despite being more than a year away)—to social media to trade to entertainment to other issues that affect the industry such as the paper straw, they all have a place on this year’s list. However, a person returns to the top of the list this year and it’s her second time as the most influential person in the industry. Nine Dragons’ Cheung Yan comes out as No. 1 in 2019, just as she did in 2017. It’s a family affair as her son Ken Liu, head of ND Paper, also makes a return appearance.

There are many other familiar names, but many newcomers as well. As we have said in the past, we enjoy putting together this eclectic annual collection. It is neither a scientific study nor a popularity contest. It is more a year’s worth of observation along with the opinions of many experienced analysts within the industry.

As we were compiling this year’s list, the sad news came in that Sylvain Lhôte, director general of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), died suddenly. Lhôte had been on the Power List for the last two years and was doing a fantastic job supporting the pulp and paper industries in Europe. Lhôte was recently also announced as the new president of the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA). He will be greatly missed in the industry worldwide.

Again, we would like to hear from you as to who we may have missed and why they should be included. You can contact Graeme Rodden ([email protected]) or Mark Rushton ([email protected]) with your list of people and issues that deserve to be in the 2020 Fastmarkets RISI Top 50.

The chairlady of Nine Dragons is one of a select few people in the pulp and paper industry who have always been on the Power List since its inception 12 years ago. Cheung Yan heads 2019’s list for yet more audacious company expansion—in this year alone Nine Dragons will add 2.05 million tpy of capacity in China. The company will start up four new recycled linerboard machines by the end of October. Also, US subsidiary ND Paper, headed by Cheung Yan’s son Ken Liu (#32), is in the midst of equipment upgrades and expansion projects that will see another 1.4 million tpy of capacity added to the four US plants it recently acquired. However, all is not totally rosy in the Nine Dragons garden; the chairlady recently told Fastmarkets RISI that “China’s imposition of an additional 25 percent tariff on US RCP has taken a heavy toll on the group’s profitability.”

A perennial member of this list and the 2018 TAPPI/PIMA Executive of the Year, Sutton leads a company that has been named one of the Most Admired Companies by Fortune; one of the Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere; and one of the 100 Best Places to Work by Computerworld. What more is there to add? On the mill front, IP acquired DS Smith’s packaging businesses in Portugal and France. It has postponed its US$300-million conversion of PM 15 in Selma, AL, (from UFS to whitetop and containerboard). Plus: will it make another play for Smurfit Kappa Group in the upcoming months?

Not only a familiar face on this list, but also a four-time winner of the Fastmarkets RISI Latin American CEO of the Year Award, Schalka now leads a behemoth in pulp making after the merger with Fibria. His leadership skills will be put to the test in the coming months as pulp markets face an upheaval with slowing demand and oversupply. Suzano has announced downtime that will take more than 1 million metric tons off the market through 2019.

Fastmarkets RISI Asian CEO of the Year for 2019, Susumu Yajima has led the company to record sales and profit despite a deterioration in Japan’s domestic printing paper markets and severe weather events and earthquakes last year. Net sales of the company are up 4.4 percent and net profits are up 43.5 percent on the previous year. Oji credits the achievements mainly to its expanded operations and better prices for overseas pulp sales.

Another Power List 12-year stalwart, UPM CEO and President Pesonen moves up the list this year as he was recently named Fastmarkets RISI European CEO of the Year. One expert involved in his selection pointed to his efforts to “transform UPM from a business that was primarily focused on paper production to one that has broadened its reach across the pulp and paper sector.” Pesonen said in a recent interview, “Innovation and continuous exploration of new growth opportunities are central to UPM’s operations.”

Hard on the heels of its successful mill openings in Shreveport, LA, and Valparaiso, IN, Pratt is set to open its fifth 100 percent recycled corrugated medium and liner mill, this one in Wapakoneta, OH. Able to make 360,000 metric tpy, the total investment is about US$275 million. Under Anthony Pratt’s guidance, the company is the world’s largest privately-held paper and packaging producer. According to past statements, the company has plans for further expansion.

Honored at PaperCon 2019 as the TAPPI/PIMA Executive of the Year, Williams was cited for his ability to continually evaluate long-term strategy while achieving short-term results. As well as a prescient move into adult hygienic care products, Domtar has found some success with its nanocrystalline cellulose business, CelluForce. A recent multi-million dollar project helped CelluForce double its capacity. It says something about Williams’ leadership in that four other Domtar employees received PIMA management awards during PaperCon.

Texeira has ambitious plans for Klabin. He said the company is “more ready than ever” to play a role in future packaging industry M&A. In the next five years, the company plans on spending US$2.3 billion on the Puma II project that will see two more integrated paper machines with a capacity of 920,000 metric tpy of linerboard. Plans are for the new capacity to be sold in export markets such as North America and Europe.

It’s almost impossible to attend any paper industry conference without hearing one analyst or another talk about Amazon (as well as other e-commerce players) and the effect it has had on the packaging sector. Its tendency to over-package goods (boxes within boxes) has come under scrutiny, and any cutback could have an effect on the sector. But e-commerce is here to stay and the biggest player holds great sway over the market.

Asia Pulp & Paper never does things in half measures, and the last 12 months are no different. The Indonesian pulp and paper giant has revealed plans to build the world’s largest paper and board mill on the coast of Andhra Pradesh, India. The proposed mill would be able to produce 5 million metric tpy and will cost around US$3.5 billion. The greenfield development comes on the back of strong growth predictions for domestic demand in India, which is set to double over the next decade. At the same time APP China has plans for a massive greenfield tissue mill in Rudong county, Nantong city, with a capacity of 780,000 metric tpy.

Last year’s Fastmarkets RISI Asian CEO of the year continues to lead Shanying International Holdings from the front. The company is forging ahead with its massive recycled containerboard project in Jingzouh, Hubei province, China, and has ordered a third containerboard machine for the new mill. The company also has plans for another two recycled containerboard machines, bringing it to a total of five machines; and is also reportedly planning a large recycled board mill in Malaysia. Shanying purchased Verso’s fine paper mill in Wickliffe, KY, and renamed it Phoenix Paper; the mill now makes bleached hardwood pulp, with more products on the horizon.

Chilean pulp producer Arauco is set to leap from seventh to third place as a major supplier of eucalyptus pulp worldwide. This is primarily due to the MAPA project—a major expansion taking place at the company’s Horcones site near Concepcion in central Chile, which will start up in early 2021.The MAPA expansion will raise production at the mill to 2.1 million metric tpy. The company operates five mills in Chile, one in Argentina, and has a joint venture in Uruguay with Stora Enso.

Growth and profitability continue at Stora Enso under Sundström’s leadership with sales increasing last year by 4.4 percent and operational EBITA by an impressive 32 percent. The company prides itself on innovation in all areas of business; one of the latest products launched is a new sustainable RFID tag, ECO, which is designed for intelligent packaging functionalities in supply chain, retail, and e-commerce applications. Stora Enso has also entered a partnership with H&M Group and Inter Ikea Group to industrialize new textile fibers.

Hämälä has now got his feet firmly under the table as Metsä Group CEO after taking over from long-term CEO Kari Jordan in early 2018, and the innovation and expansion projects are becoming even more numerous. Among many new things going on at the Finnish company—and on the back of the enormous success of the Äänekoski bioproduct mill startup in 2017—there are ongoing plans for another new bioproduct mill on the company’s existing site at Kemi in Finland’s Lapland. Subject to approvals, Metsä will build a Euro 1.5 billion (US$1.68 billion) bioproduct mill with a pulp capacity of 1.5 million tpy.

Smurfit Kappa has been extremely active on the acquisition front over the last year, as well as investing in upgrades and expansions at various mills. Its latest acquisitions are in Eastern Europe with two integrated packaging operations in Bulgaria: Balkanpack EOOD and Vitavel AD. This adds to the completion of its acquisition of Parenco in the middle of last year and purchase of Serbian containerboard mill Fabrika Hartije and corrugated plant Avala Ada late last year. In December last year it also announced the acquisition of Europac’s Caradec plants and Papcart in France. All eyes are on another possible move by International Paper to acquire the company.

They all seem to be at it—well, a lot of the pulp producers, anyway: looking for in-roads into the textile market as it rapidly becomes clear that clothing and fabrics made from oil-based fibers are having a huge negative impact on the world’s oceans. Research tells us that 70 percent of all micro plastic pollution is coming from clothing and textiles. Also, growing cotton for textiles is being proved to be unfriendly for the environment due to excessive water demands. A lot of innovative wood-based R&D is taking place in universities, research institutions, and companies in a race to capture a potentially huge market as textile production looks to hit 140 million metric tpy by 2025.

The humble paper straw has seemingly put the paper industry on the map like no other promotional campaign ever could. Major fast food brands are ditching plastic straws en masse (responsibly, we hope!) and the paper straw business is suddenly booming. Newspapers and TV programs across the world are telling everyone what we in the industry have known for years— paper is environmentally awesome! Government legislation is also helping; the latest, the UK, is implementing a total ban on selling plastic straws, drink stirrers, and cotton swabs with plastic stems from early next year. Word has it that all EU countries are set to follow with the ban. Interestingly, and according to Garden & Gun magazine, shotgun paper shells also are making a huge comeback for hunters and skeet aficionados due to nostalgia and for environmental reasons, as they are also replacing plastic.

Last year’s Fastmarkets RISI European CEO of the Year, Roberts is leading from the front in the mission to replace plastics with fiber-based alternatives, particularly in European supermarkets. The company’s recent research found that 1.5 million metric tons of plastic could be replaced each year from only five areas within supermarkets across Europe. The report, “Transforming the Supermarket Aisle,” identified fresh produce containers and shrink wrap as two of the items supermarkets could replace with renewable materials. DS Smith announced the agreed disposal of its own plastics division earlier in the year.

Heir to a family-run business, William “Will” Kress is the third generation to lead GPK since it was founded in 1933 by George Kress. The company is in the midst of a massive US$600-million expansion project replacing its 71-year-old mill with a new state-of-the-art facility that will produce 685,000 tpy of 100-percent recycled liner and corrugating medium on one 300-in. trim machine. Startup is slated for early 2021. The Kress family also should be recognized for its devotion to occupational health and safety, being a long-time and generous supporter of the Pulp and Paper Safety Association.

One of the most polarizing presidencies in history continues to dominate headlines. Despite being more than a year away, the 2020 election is a favorite topic of discussion in all media outlets. By press time, 24 Democrats had already announced their candidacy. No doubt this election will dominate news and generate countless pages of newspapers, magazines, and Special Reports in the months to come.

Coming off an excellent 2Q 2019 and with the Kapstone takeover behind it, WestRock continues to roll along. It recently won a NextGen Challenge Cup Award for its development of a recyclable, compostable hot/cold beverage cup. It has also earned several design awards for its innovative packaging. It has just acquired the UBS Printing Group, strengthening its footprint in the beauty, personal care, and nutraceutical sectors and increasing its presence on the West Coast.

Shandong Sun Paper Industry continues its unstoppable march onward at home and abroad; it recently started up two brand new machines at its Honghe Paper subsidiary in Zoucheng, China—PM 36 and PM 37. PM 36 is making low-grammage, high-grade testliner and PM 37 is making corrugating medium. Elsewhere, the firm continues to have success with its first project outside of China: its pulp mill in Laos started up last year, and can swing between kraft pulp and dissolving pulp according to market conditions. Sun Paper is still working on plans for the proposed US$1.5 billion bioproducts mill in Clark County, AR, and is waiting on environmental permits.

Perhaps not so much an individual listing, this entry encompasses the state of the US recycling industry, especially in light of Chinese policies. Waste Management recently bought Advanced Disposal, the Number 4 company in the sector, in a US$4.9-billion deal. Perhaps the deal will bring some needed scale to help the country grapple with what one observer calls, “Some fundamental changes to how waste/recyclables are collected/processed/disposed of now in the US.” Advanced Disposal had a strong footprint in the populous Eastern US.

Business for Lee & Man continues to boom with revenues increasing by nearly 25 percent for 2018. The group’s focus lies in the development of various types of linerboard, corrugating medium, coated duplex board, and tissue. Packaging paper is the mainstay of its business with production of 6.03 million metric tons last year. Tissue production was 795,000 tpy last year, which will increase as new lines come on stream this year. Fastmarkets RISI has reported that the company plans to build a 700,000 metric tpy packaging paper mill and 550,000 tpy recycled pulp mill in Malaysia.

This is a company that never stops innovating, no matter the business. It has just started up a new coating line at its Birmingham, AL, converting plant, part of its joint venture with Sonoco. The US$16-million line was installed to advantage the JV’s proprietary water-based coatings. In 2018, Cascades acquired the White Birch mill in Bear Island, VA. The plan was for White Birch to continue making newsprint under a 27-month lease. However, it has since decided to leave earlier. Cascades will convert the machine to lightweight linerboard following the success of its Greenpac mill in Niagara Falls, NY.

With its exit from the communication papers business (to the surprise of some), and the announcement of two new tissue machines in the next two years, G-P has firmly decided where it wants to be in the market. It also sold its European airlaid business to Glatfelter. Along with its well-known tissue brands, GP is a leading packaging paper producer. Its building products segment continues to grow with the recent opening of a US$100-million lumber facility in Alabama. It also increased its presence in specialty pulp when it announced plans in 2018 to convert its Foley, FL, mill (acquired in the takeover of Buckeye) to totally dissolving pulp.

Oswald appears to be doing a sterling job as Mondi CEO: revenue is up 5 percent and EBITA rose by 19 percent in 2018. In a recent financial summary, Oswald says the strong results are due to good demand across fiber packaging businesses, higher than average selling prices and the contribution of recent acquisitions. In 2018 Mondi started up the Euro 335 million (US$374 million) modernization of its kraft paper facility at Steti. The company recently announced a Euro 67 million (US$74 million) conversion of a containerboard machine also at Steti to produce MF specialty kraft paper grades with a mix of recycled and virgin fiber for the production of shopping bags.

With the successful opening of its Greenfield mill in Ohio and another mill set to open soon in Oklahoma, Sofidel is well on its way to becoming a power in the US private label tissue industry. And that won’t be the end of it; sooner or later, Lazzareschi said, the company will need to add a TAD machine. Another priority will be extending the company’s reach in the US with the Pacific Northwest being a potential region of interest.

There’s a lot going on at SCA as it expands and progresses. Earlier this year the King of Sweden inaugurated SCA’s Östrand pulp mill near Sundsvall after the Helios project that has seen it double in capacity to 900,000 metric tpy. The mill makes bleached softwood kraft pulp, which makes Östrand the biggest of its kind in the world. SCA is now looking to construct a biorefinery at the same site; environmental permits have been applied for. Other expansion projects are ongoing at its Obbola and Munksund mills.

With solid first quarter results achieved, Graphic Packaging has been approved to join Amazon’s Packaging Support and Supplier Network. The company also earned the Packaging and Paperboard Council’s Folding Carton of the Year Award in 2018. The company has been in the forefront in the development of sustainable packaging and cooking solutions. On the investment side, it announced a 6-year, US$350-million program at the Augusta, GA, SBS mill it acquired from IP.

Being heavily involved in graphic papers, Sappi is at the sharp end of the decline in demand (from 8-13 percent this year); however, it is still a valuable business that needs careful managing. In Sappi’s case this means exporting paper from its mills in Europe to the US to maintain profitability. Fortunately, the company has diversified into specialty papers and dissolving pulp, both of which are growth areas. The company recently added 30,000 tons of dissolving pulp capacity to its Cloquet, MN, mill in the US. Sappi’s Maastricht Mill in the Netherlands was in the news recently as it won the 2018 Technical Innovation Awards for its Multilayer Headbox project.

The US subsidiary of Chinese giant Nine Dragons, the company continues to grow. It added its fourth mill (Old Town, ME) to go along with assets in West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Rumford, ME. For its efforts, the Maine International Trade Center named ND Paper its Foreign Direct Investor of the Year. This year should see the company execute its strategy for the US with conversions and grade shifts.

Business continues to go in the right direction at tissue and hygiene giant Essity. Headed by Groth, early results this year show sales increased by 9 percent and operating profits went up to 9.1 percent. The company recently announced it is investing in an integrated facility for the production of pulp based on alternative fiber from plant-based agricultural by-products. The location of the new facility will be at Essity’s tissue plant in Mannheim, Germany, with production expected to start in the second half of 2020.

A recent TAPPI/PIMA Executive of the Year and RISI North American CEO of the Year, Kowlzan heads a continually growing paper and board company with more than 5 million tpy of capacity. Its white paper division acquired from Boise continues to prosper. It recently converted one white paper machine at its Wallula, WA, mill to produce linerboard. It has also expanded its box making capacity with the building of two new box plants.

There is always something new happening at Progroup. Earlier this year the German company started up a Euro 85 million (US$97 million) sheetfeeding plant in the UK that will produce 235,000 metric tpy of corrugated board. Meanwhile, work continues on what the company is describing as “the world’s most modern paper factory” in the state of Saxony-Anhalt in Germany. The new mill will have an annual capacity of 750,000 metric tons, which will increase Progroup’s total annual production to 1.85 million metric tpy.

KBG Technologies
Buckman Gibson was selected as Woman of the Year by TAPPI’s Women in Industry Division for good reason. She has been a well-known and respected figure in the industry for more than 25 years. She has helped the cause of diversity within the industry immensely. In 2018, she started KBG Technologies, a joint venture between herself and Buckman, where she is an owner and director. KBG Technologies is a certified woman-owned business providing chemistries and smart technologies to the pulp and paper and water treatment industries.

It should have been done and dusted by now—at least according to last year’s Power List, when we said the UK split from the European Union will “finally take place in March (2019).” But alas, chaos continues to reign as an extension has been given, and then, just as we went to press with this year’s Power List, Prime Minister Theresa May resigned. This means even more confusion and chaos for the island nation, but hopefully, next year—soft or hard, in or out—the whole tiresome affair will be over.

38. heidi brock – af&pa
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) recently announced that Heidi Brock will succeed Donna Harman as its new president and CEO. Harman served as head of the AF&PA for 12 years and has announced her retirement. Brock joins from the Aluminum Association where she was president and CEO for eight years. However, she is returning to her roots; Brock formerly served as vice president of Federal and International Affairs at Weyerhaeuser where she held a number of positions over the course of 18 years of service.

This company is another of those that has come up with the answer to an issue that has long vexed the environmentalist: the unrecyclable take-out coffee cup. Its recycled pulp line, Envirolife, has been US FDA approved for food contact. It has initiated a Cup-to-Cup project with Starbucks. It also produces recycled fine paper that has attracted an elite group of customers including Ford and Cirque du Soleil.

The company recently announced two more major tissue investments: US$115 million at Beech Island, SC; and US$120 million in Jenkins, OK. K-C was honored as one of NAFE’s 2019 Top Companies for Executive Women. However, Hsu’s leadership mettle will be tested as the company is under the gun from unions for its global restructuring plan and from NGOs (again) after the NRDC released its report “The Issue with Tissue.” Still, Corporate Responsibility magazine named K-C to its 100 Best Corporate Citizens Ranking, recognizing environmental, social, and governance transparency and performance.

This CEO was recently named the 2019 International CEO of the Year during the PPI Awards. Mexico’s largest paper and corrugated packaging producer, Bio-Pappel is known for its strong sustainability performance. Rincon was cited for the company’s acquisition of Scribe, the largest integrated white papers company in Mexico and Latin America. Its US subsidiary, McKinley Paper, recently purchased the Port Angeles, WA, mill from Nippon Paper Industries, and is converting it to produce containerboard.

The idea of an economic stimulus packaged designed to nudge US policy—and consumer behavior—away from non-renewables has been around for a while, yet the idea really took hold after the 2018 mid-term elections, when freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Dem-NY) called for formation of a committee tasked with creating a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” to move the US economy toward carbon neutrality. With goals focused on “clean” manufacturing, water and energy use reduction, renewable energy, and sustainable building and transportation, any resulting legislation is sure to impact our industry, and may present a host of new market opportunities for sustainable materials.

Enviva is the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, with annual production of more than three million tpy. It has seven production plants in the southeastern US. Keppler has been at the forefront of pushing wood biomass as a solution to climate change. With the debate about the issue becoming more urgent, Enviva is poised for more growth, but does the pulp and paper industry see wood pellets as a competitor for fiber?

An ecologist’s dream, the tree-free pulp plant has long been promoted in North America. Some have tried, but success was not to be. Now, it is about to become a reality as Columbia Pulp (eastern Washington) is set to start up in mid-2019. Using wheat straw as a furnish, the mill uses the proprietary “Phoenix process” developed by Sustainable Fiber Technologies. This mill promises to be only the first step in the increased use of agri-waste as a pulp furnish in the US.

In terms of member-based associations representing the industry, TAPPI continues to lead the way with a portfolio that includes an array of conferences covering subjects from nano to corrugated. Its technical standards are followed the world over. It has also branched out to complementary association management for such organizations as PIMA, ASPI, and the IFPTA. Under Montague’s leadership, the membership has grown and finances are on a strong footing.

It’s been a good year so far for the Swedish market pulp giant: net sales are up 11 percent and operating profit rose by 22 percent. Idermark says that the increase in profits is due to the production facilities “delivering an excellent performance.” Södra recently invested SEK 20 million (about US$2.1 million) for sustainable transport solutions as part of its process to be totally fossil-free by 2030.

This Canadian bookstore mogul and philanthropist is CEO of her country’s largest retail bookstore chain, and is credited by the NY Times with “reinventing the way books are sold,” marketing gifts and home items alongside related titles. Indigo’s success—the company reported 2018 revenues topping CAD$1 billion (about US$744 million)—is good news for an industry invested in positioning print products as desirable lifestyle necessities.

As president of the Nanocellulose Forum and winner of the Wallenberg Prize as well as many other technical awards, Isogai has helped Japan become a leader in nanocellulose research and commercialization of the technologies.

The first five novels in Martin’s proposed seven-volume A Song of Ice and Fire series total more than 4,000 pages of dragon-filled fantasy and are solid international best-sellers. At press time, social media was buzzing with disappointment over the finale of the immensely popular HBO Game of Thrones series, which had leap-frogged ahead of the books; the fan-fire will undoubtedly foment interest in how the master himself resolves the stories. All of Westeros had better start planting trees.

This final spot goes to the appealing mascots of the P&PB’s “How Life Unfolds” campaign. Our industry makes beneficial products and has a great story to tell, but we’ve got to stop preaching to the choir. This campaign gets the word out in print advertising, TV commercials (even during the Superbowl!), and social media engagement. Like Paper360° readers, these two do their part every day to keep our facilities running—and that deserves recognition.