updated 2/22/2011 7:46:03 AM ET 2011-02-22T12:46:03

NEW YORK, Feb. 22, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Mercer International Inc. (Nasdaq:MERC) (TSX:MRI-U) (the "Company") today announced that it has completed a preliminary feasibility analysis for its Celgar and Stendal mills with respect to enhancing their operations and margins. In addition to other enhancements, the preliminary analysis identified that, for a capital cost of approximately $30 to $40 million per mill, they could have the capacity to produce NBSK pulp, as currently, and dissolving pulp ("DP") when market conditions are favourable. The enhancements would permit the mills to become "swing mills", capable of swinging production from NBSK pulp to DP to opportunistically maximize realizations. DP is a high grade specialty product that commands premium pricing relative to NBSK.  It is used for, among other things, rayon, a renewable textile fiber that is a substitute for cotton, and other fossil fuel derived synthetic fibers.

Based on the preliminary feasibility analysis:

  • the scale, technical ages and regional wood pricing at the Company's facilities would permit Celgar and Stendal to be first and second quartile cost producers of DP respectively. Due to size and other considerations, it was decided not to undertake a feasibility study for the Rosenthal mill;
     
  • while the Company will always maintain its focus on being a leader in NBSK pulp, the enhancements would result in the Celgar and Stendal mills having an estimated annual DP production capacity of 400,000 and 500,000 tonnes, respectively;   
     
  • to maintain our core NBSK business and our commitment to customers, we would only adjust some production to DP to realize enhanced margins. If production were shifted for half the year, the annual production capacities at Celgar and Stendal would be approximately 260,000 and 300,000 tonnes of NBSK and 200,000 and 260,000 tonnes of DP, respectively;
     
  • the project would take about 16 months to implement, with no expected impact to NBSK production with the exception of an approximate 3 week required shutdown for project tie-in at the end. Trial campaigns of DP production could begin in early 2013 if a decision to order equipment was made in the third quarter of 2011;

Initially the Company would most likely implement the project at one mill. As part of a final technical and feasibility study, the Company is implementing a process to select which mill and timing. Factors affecting mill selection will include levels of government support and technical limitations. A potential technical limitation has been identified for Celgar due to the mill's use of a continuous digester, while no technical limitations have been identified at Stendal as it employs super batch digesters.

Mr. Jimmy S.H. Lee, President and Chairman, commented: "This is an exciting potential opportunity that would position us to be a significant 'swing producer', capable of shifting some production to capture the best possible margins.  Dissolving pulp is experiencing a very robust market and while a pullback in pricing is expected, the long term outlook is quite promising. This opportunity is only possible because of the capabilities of our large modern mills. This project would not change our core commitment to NBSK pulp but will let us further realize upon our mills' strengths. We believe that we will be able to take further advantage of the excess energy produced from DP to increase our power generating capacity and enhance electricity revenues."

Currently, the Company is supplying small quantities of standard grade NBSK to DP/Cotton Linter end users for substitution. Previously, the Company had done trials with a large European textile group on a refined grade of NBSK capable of being a substitute for up to 15% of the DP input used in rayon production and is planning to introduce this grade into the market. This grade is not a dissolving pulp grade and does not require any modifications to our existing equipment.

The Company expects to complete a final technical and feasibility study and make a decision on proceeding in mid-2011. At this time, the analysis is preliminary and there can be no assurance that the project will proceed as currently set out or at all. 

Mercer International Inc. is a global pulp manufacturing company. To obtain further information on the company, please visit its web site at http://www.mercerint.com .

The Mercer International Inc. logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=5417

The preceding includes forward-looking statements which involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties which may not prove to be accurate. Generally, forward-looking statements can be identified by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts and often include words such as "expects", "anticipates", "intends", "plans", "believes", "seeks", "estimates", or words of similar meaning or future or conditional verbs such as "will", "should", "could" or "may". Forward-looking statements are based on expectations, forecasts and assumptions by our management and involve a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. Actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed or forecasted in these forward-looking statements. In particular, statements relating to our producing dissolving pulp, the estimated annual dissolving pulp production capacity at our Celgar and Stendal mills, the estimated cost and amount of time the project would take to complete, the impact on our NBSK production and our plans or intentions regarding the completion of a final technical and feasibility study and any decisions resulting therefrom are forward-looking statements and may not necessarily occur as described herein or at all. Among other factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are the following:  the highly cyclical nature of our business, raw material costs, our level of indebtedness, competition, risks commonly associated with large capital projects including: cost and time overruns, technical and equipment failures, design and engineering defects or errors and projects not meeting design projections, foreign exchange and interest rate fluctuations, our use of derivatives, expenditures for capital projects, environmental regulation and compliance, disruptions to our production, market conditions and other risk factors listed from time to time in our SEC reports.

CONTACT: Jimmy S.H. Lee
         Chairman & President
         (604) 684-1099
         
         David M. Gandossi
         Executive Vice-President &
         Chief Financial Officer
         (604) 684-1099

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