HALIFAX – After a year of legal wrangling, the $33-million sale of the former NewPage Port Hawkesbury paper mill to Vancouver-based Pacific West Commercial Corp. was officially sanctioned Thursday by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
“We’re hopeful that everything is in place,” George Kinsman, a spokesman for court-appointed monitor Ernst & Young, said outside the Halifax courtroom. “We are ready to go.”
However, the sale wasn’t expected to close until late Friday when the province, company officials and a battery of lawyers sign the closing documents in Halifax and Toronto.
“That’s the last piece of prime document that people are waiting for,” said Kinsman.
Given all of the procedural steps that have yet to fall into place, the court also granted approval to extend the sale process to Oct. 5 if there are any last-minute glitches.
“We didn’t want to find ourselves … not in a position to close and then looking for a judge,” Kinsman added. “So, this was strictly precautionary. Things are moving toward a Friday closing. … Mill management is very busy getting wood into the lot.”
The completion of the deal also was dependent on the Nova Scotia Utility Review Board signing off on an amended discount power rate agreement with Nova Scotia Power Inc.
The board brought down a ruling approving the discounted rate late Thursday.
Pacific West Commercial plans to start producing paper by early next week, said Kinsman.
Under a deal struck last Saturday, the province is offering a $124.5 million aid package on top of the $36.8 million it has spent keeping the mill in a so-called hot idle state.
Premier Darrell Dexter has said the agreement means the money the province has spent in an effort to restart the mill should be repaid in full in as little as 12 years.
In return, the company has promised to rehire about 300 workers and operate one of the mill’s two paper machines.
The money-losing plant shut down last September, throwing about 600 people out of work and affecting another 400 forestry contractors. At the time, NewPage cited the high value of the Canadian dollar and increased rates for shipping and electricity as the reasons for its closure.