29 June 2010

Potential investor quits mill talks, accuses government of “overt politicization”: CBC

CBC’s David Cochrane reported this evening that the investment company that had expressed interest in the defunct Grand Falls-Windsor paper mill is withdrawing its offer. The first segment is at about 15:00 into the Here and Now broadcast.

Cochrane quoted from a statement issued by the company shortly after 1800 hrs Newfoundland Daylight Savings Time. 

According to the statement, Lott Feinpappen was never the company looking at the mill.  Instead it was a company called Motion Invest, in which an individual named Bob Roche was a principle.

Roche is quoted as saying that at no time was Motion Invest close to an offer for the mill.  There was an interest in doing a feasibility study on moving the mill away from what Cochrane described as unprofitable newsprint production.

In the statement as reported by CBC, Roche accuses the provincial government of a “serious breach of confidentiality of a commercial issue” of wholely incorrect statements and misrepresentations of Motion Invest’s intentions.

In the most recent session of the House, Dunderdale boasted about the ability of the current administration to negotiate successfully with companies.

The statement appeared to have been drafted in some haste, according to Cochrane, as it contained as many “broadsides” against the government as it did spelling mistakes.

Cochrane added to his report at about 49:00 with initial provincial government reaction.

According to Cochrane, natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale found the Motion Invest comments to be “mindboggling” and “absolutely incorrect.”  The proposal went well beyond a feasibility study and included targets and timelines.  

The company was also looking for loans and loan guarantees totalling $52 million, according to Dunderdale. 

The provincial government may release documents within the next 24 hours but is currently consulting with justice department lawyers.

Dunderdale told reporters in St. John’s last week that the company was looking for financial assistance.  She did not specify what the amount was at the time.

The latest information is also significantly different from Dunderdale’s previous comments in which she consistently described the project as being about a pulp and paper operation of the type already in the defunct mill.  In late May, she said:

“It's a pulp and paper company that sees some opportunity because Abitibi is withdrawing from its markets in Europe.”

Dunderdale also initially rejected the idea of the government providing “big loan guarantees or big subsidies.” 

However, by last week she was more concerned to “understand clearly what they are looking for from us”.

Provincial government policy includes interest free loans and outright gifts of cash for companies.

Update:  Motion Investment’s brief statement