Ainsworth merges with industry giant

Global OSB leadership lights up local mill outlook

The future may be rosier for the South Cariboo with the recently announced merger of Ainsworth Lumber Co. Ltd. and industry giant Norbord.

Together they are expected to take the helm of global oriented strand board (OSB) leadership.

With 100 Mile House positioned as the cornerstone of Ainsworth OSB innovation, Ainsworth president and chief executive officer Jim Lake says the merger really makes a “very nice, bigger and stronger” company.

“In general, this is very good for the operations for Ainsworth, and obviously 100 Mile plays a big part in our strategy.”

With a combined capacity of approximately 7.7 billion square feet (3/8-inch basis), the merged company will be one of the world’s largest and lowest-cost OSB producers.

He notes this will position the company to better serve national customer accounts and realize savings in freight and logistics costs.

Ainsworth is already the largest supplier of OSB to Japan, the bulk of which is manufactured in 100 Mile House.

Lake says it has a corporate growth strategy to continue to grow that Asian export business, with a goal to double its current market position.

“Naturally that would have an impact on 100 Mile because that’s the [OSB] press that fits that product the best, and it also has the proximity to the port that makes it freight-logical.”

Meanwhile, Norbord brings a strong business market it has cultivated in Europe, which is where many of its facilities outside of North America are also located.

Norbord president/CEO Peter Wijnbergen will take on this same role at the helm of the new company, which will operate under the Norbord name. (Lake has agreed to stay on for another six months.)

Wijnbergen says this transaction unites two businesses behind a common vision of enhanced service to its customers and growth in North America, Europe and Asia.

“Norbord and Ainsworth are each low-cost producers in their respective regions, and with our complementary operations and a more diverse range of specialty products, we will be better able to serve our customers across the globe.”

Lake says Ainsworth believes as the new combined company improves operations at all its mills and expands the reach of its products, this larger platform will also provide opportunity to its people.

This could be realized through streamlined processes, product line complexity and maintenance flexibility, as well as by having more resources, capital and best practices to draw from, he explains.

Lake notes this will be of mutual benefit to both companies.

“We are combining two companies with very complementary strengths. On the Ainsworth side, we are very strong at product development and we are very strong at technology. On the Norbord side, they have long been known as one of the industry’s – if not the industry’s – lowest-cost manufacturers.”

Ainsworth is “very confident” the merger will go through successfully, he says.