Shareholders of embattled Norwegian forestry firm Norske Skog voted as expected on Thursday to elect investor and forest owner Christen Sveaas as their new chairman of the board. The extraordinary shareholders meeting was, however, not presented with a new restructuring plan, after negotiations with creditors were postponed once again.
Norske Skog is burdened by huge debts stemming from its period of international expansion that began in the 1990s. After Sveaas recently bought enough stock to become the company’s largest shareholder, creditors reportedly agreed to give Sveaas and now Norske Skog’s new board time to examine refinancing proposals.
In addition to Sveaas taking over as chairman, new board members include Norwegian financier Ragnhild Wiborg and business executive Annette Malm Justad, who has worked for Norwegian companies including Norsk Hydro and Yara International. Jon-Aksel Torgersen of the Astrup Fearnley concern will also rejoin the board while Eilif Due was re-elected. “Out of consideration to the major changes,” wrote company spokesman Carsten Dybevig to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), the planned launch of a restructuring was postponed indefinitely.
Sveaas, who’s been widely viewed as a saviour for Norske Skog, addressed shareholders at the meeting and drew laughs when he said that “I think most people who know me, know that that I’m a seig jævel (roughly translated: tough bastard). So we’ll see if that will be enough” to save the company. He noted that the company, which has profitable paper plants in Norway, was already operating “on overtime” in trying to get a restructuring agreement in place.