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Chartham Paper Mill faces uncertain future as owner Arjowiggins goes into administration

By Gerry Warren

The firm which runs an historic old paper mill has tumbled into administration, leaving 90 staff facing an uncertain future.

Chartham Paper Mill first started operating on the site 250 years ago and generations of local families have worked there.

It is run by Arjowiggins Chartham, which says there are no immediate plans to make any redundancies, but adds that "the position will continue to be assessed".

Chartham Paper Mill
Chartham Paper Mill

A number of other Arjowiggins UK businesses, including Arjowiggins Fine Papers Limited, which operates the Stoneywood Mill in Aberdeen, have also been placed in administration.

The UK companies are part of the Creative Papers division within Sequana, a listed French manufacturer and distributor of paper, packaging and print solutions.

In July 2018 there hopes that Arjo Wiggins would be bought out by Dutch paper company called Fineska BV, which is owned by the Eska Group.

It had been expected a deal would be completed in October, 2018, but it fell through after Fineska pulled out.

Joint Administrator Geoff Rowley said: "The Chartham Mill in Kent has a long history and excellent global reputation for producing fine paper of the highest quality.

"Unfortunately, rising pulp prices and energy costs have made trading conditions extremely difficult in this market and the insolvency proceedings begun in France have left the directors of the company no option but to enter into administration.

"We will continue to trade the business whilst exploring all options for securing a future for the site"

Former employees have been expressing their sadness on social media at the news.

Writing on Facebook, Neil Holliday said: "Having worked at the mill for a short time in the 80s and my father having worked there for many years, I feel pretty sad that such a well loved and established company should come to an end.

"Some of my earliest memories were playing on the stacks of wood pulp that surrounded the mill.

"I can't help thinking it may rip the heart out of the village. I do hope there's a buyer out there."

The union Unite says it believes the administration was triggered by problems Sequana has experienced over a costly legal dispute with British American Tobacco and is not related to Brexit uncertainty.

Its paper industry representative, Louisa Bull, said: "Arjowiggins is a vibrant and innovative creative paper company, and we can see a bright future as it is an attractive proposition for a potential buyer.

"Unite is committed to working with the administrators and the employers' body, the Confederation of Paper Industries to find a new owner.

"We have had a good relationship with the company over many years and this is a good basis for exploring options for a new purchaser."

The administrations of the UK businesses follow a petition on January 8 by Sequana to begin receivership proceedings for Arjowiggins' French subsidiaries.

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