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Verso to idle two mills in Upper Midwest

Verso to idle two mills in Upper Midwest
Verso - Duluth paper mill, Minnesota.

Verso Corporation is taking immediate actions to offset unprecedented market decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to reposition the company for future success.

Verso will indefinitely idle paper mills in Duluth, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, while exploring viable and sustainable alternatives for both mills, including restarting if market conditions improve, marketing for sale or closing permanently. The decision to reduce production capacity is driven by the accelerated decline in graphic paper demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The stay-at-home orders have significantly reduced the use of print advertising in various industries, including retail, sports, entertainment and tourism. According to Fastmarkets RISI, North American printing & writing demand fell by 38% year-over-year in April, and operating rates are expected to drop well below 70% during the second quarter.

“It is critical that we maintain a healthy balance sheet and focus on cash flow, while balancing our supply of products and our customers’ demand,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Adam St. John. “After a comprehensive review of post-pandemic demand forecasts and capacity, we made the difficult decision to idle the Duluth and Wisconsin Rapids mills. We expect the idling of these facilities to improve our free cash flow. The sell through of inventory is expected to offset the cash costs of idling the mills.”

Verso expects to idle the Duluth Mill by the end of June 2020, and the Wisconsin Rapids Mill by the end of July 2020, resulting in the layoff of approximately 1,000 employees. Verso will continue to supply graphic and specialty papers in roll and sheet form, as well as packaging papers and pulp.

“Decisions to idle facilities are always difficult because they impact employees, their families, and communities,” said St. John. “Verso is committed to treating all of our affected employees with fairness and respect. As always, safety is our highest priority and will be our primary focus during this difficult time.”

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