Catalyst sells US operations to China company

Canadian company Catalyst Paper Corp. is selling its U.S. operations, including a pair of paper mills in Maine and Wisconsin, to a Chinese company that has no immediate plans for changes, officials said Friday.

A subsidiary of Nine Dragons Paper is paying $175 million for the mills along with staff associated with an operations center in Dayton, Ohio. There are no plans for layoffs at the mills, which employ about 610 workers in Rumford, Maine, and 380 workers in Biron, Wisconsin, a spokeswoman said.

Ned Dwyer, Catalyst president and CEO, said the sale of the company's U.S. assets allows it to pay down debt and focus on operations in British Columbia.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

Nine Dragons' major focus is on environmentally friendly recycled paper, but it also operates conventional pulp mills like those it's buying in Maine and Wisconsin.

"Our focus right now is on continuing current operations and conducting business as usual on a day-to-day basis," spokeswoman Kelly Karr said.

Down the road, Nine Dragons said it plans to invest in high-growth packaging paper and pulp products to keep both of the mills on a competitive footing.

"We look forward to working with the teams and communities in Maine and Wisconsin as we embark on this next phase of expansion together," Chairwoman Yan Cheung said.