Originally created 05/11/00

Champion prefers International Paper's $75-a-share offer



Champion International Corp. said Wednesday that International Paper's $7.3 billion bid is "superior" to a competing one from Finnish paper-maker UPM-Kymmene Corp.

UPM-Kymmene, however, has until 5 p.m. Friday to make a final counterproposal.

International Paper, which makes 1,895 tons of bleached paperboard daily in Augusta, offered to buy Champion last month -- undercutting a previous bid from Helsinki-based UPM-Kymmene.

International Paper's latest offer for Champion is a $75 a share cash offer for two-thirds of the outstanding Champion shares. The remaining shares would be converted into International Paper common stock with a market value of $75.

If the International Paper common stock is trading at less than $34.50 per share at the time of the merger, each remaining Champion share would be converted into about 2.17 International Paper shares. In addition to the $7.3 billion in assets, International Paper is offering to assume $2.3 billion in debt.

UPM-Kymmene's offer is for $70 a share, all in cash. UPM-Kynnene said Wednesday only that it "will consider the situation."

International Paper, based in Purchase, N.Y., is the world's largest paper company. It wants to buy Champion to strengthen its core business. The merger is expected to result in a $425 million savings as a result of manufacturing efficiencies, the company said.

The paper industry has fared well in recent years. First-quarter results for most paper companies met or beat expectations. Many companies in the paper industry are expecting more consolidation.

Atlanta-based competitor Georgia-Pacific also has said it is interested in acquiring companies, but the company has not announced any offers.

Reach Frank Witsil at 823-3352.