One of the largest single Japanese investments in the New Zealand economy is occurring with the sale of Carter Holt Harvey's pulp and paper and packaging businesses for $1.037 billion.
Tokyo Stock Exchange-listed packaging giant Oji Holdings Corp will take a 60 percent share of CHH's PPP assets, comprising some of New Zealand's largest industrial energy and forest products users, the Tasman and Kinleith pulp and paper mills, and a large Australasian packaging enterprise. Oji already owns the Pan Pac pulp and paper mill, near Napier.
Innovation Network Corp of Japan, a government-backed innovation agency that attracts private sector investment to "promote innovation and enhance the value of businesses in Japan", makes up the remaining 40 percent joint venture vehicle that will make the investment.
The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to complete in the second half of this year.
CHH is 100 percent-owned by New Zealand's only billionaire, Graeme Hart, owner of the world's largest packaging business, US-based Reynolds Group, which is under pressure to reduce its outstanding US$18 billion issuings of junk-rated corporate bonds.
Hart had previously tried to sell the CHH PPP businesses in 2012 and was forced to refinance $1.45 billion in debt when no buyer emerged at the time.
CHH's building supplies business remains for sale after taking combined charges in 2011 and 2012 of $393.8 million in impairments on its underperforming timber and plywood businesses and falling into negative equity.
In a joint statement, Oji and local PPP chief executive Jon Ryder talked up the prospects for driving greater value from the former CHH portfolio and Oji's understanding of New Zealand conditions through investment here since 1971. Oji spent $180 million in recent forest land purchases and upgrade investments for the Pan Pac mill, which were completed in 2012.
With annual turnover of US$13 billion, Oji operates globally and has interests in Canada, China, Germany and Brazil, among others. INCJ's investment mandate gives it a total investment capacity across a range of opportunities of approximately US$20 billion.
The Oji/INCJ purchase will concentrate ownership in the sector because of Oji's interest in Pan Pac. The only major players left in the sector will be the Scandinavian companies Norske Skog, which makes pulp and paper on the Kawerau site where CHH's Tasman kraft pulp and paper mill also operates, and SCA, which makes tissue papers, also on the Tasman site.