The Forest Through the Trees
Following a tense 18 months that saw paper production streamlined through consolidation, mill closings and machine shutdowns, paper producers look toward 2003 with a hint of optimism fueled by anticipation of an economic rebound. According to most manufacturers, major consolidation has strengthened the paper industry rather than harmed it, allowing companies to concentrate on their core lines to maintain their position in increasingly competitive markets. Another upbeat development expected in 2003 is further introductions of digital papers to accommodate digital short-run presses.
BTM spoke with some producers who expect more consolidation in the coming year, occurring on a smaller scale. They added that further contraction of the marketplace isn't necessarily a bad thing as it can act as a steadying force, one which will expand a company's product line and draw publishers to team up with a company that can meet all of its paper needs.
Whether any value exists by bringing two companies together must be determined before an alliance happens. When Mead and Westvaco, for example, merged to form MeadWestvaco in February 2002, the company grew stronger, according to the company, and sees 2003 as a year in which to further strengthen its current product offerings.
"Having recently gone through a merger it has been a very stabilizing thing for our company," says Tara Rogers, Global Business Manager-Graphics for MeadWestvaco's Packaging Resources Group, which produces board and cover stock. "As two companies together it has helped us build our business in the publishing industry, and it now makes more sense for publishers to partner up with MeadWestvaco."
For 2003 the company will focus on building the performance of its Tango product for coated covers.
"We want to make sure that Tango looks very good because it helps sell the book [in the bookstores]," Rogers says. "Publishers are looking for paper that prints easily and meets their needs. If there are problems on press, then it won't meet their deadlines."