LUKE, Md. —Verso Corp. announced that it is closing permanently its paper mill in Luke, Maryland, impacting approximately 675 employees at the mill that has been in operation for more than 130 years.
According to a company news release, the closing is in response to a continuing decline in customer demand for the grades of coated freesheet paper produced at the mill, along with rising input costs, a significant influx of imports, rising compliance costs and “infrastructure challenges associated with recent environmental regulation changes.”
The closure of the Allegany County plant is expected to be complete by June 30. Paper produced at Luke will be shifted to other mills, the company reported.
“It is unfortunate that we had to make the decision to close the Luke Mill, but the demand for the grades of paper manufactured there left us with little choice,” said Leslie T. Lederer, Verso’s interim chief executive officer. He added in the statement that the company considered shifting to alternate grades of paper at Luke, “but the conclusion remained the same — we could not achieve profitability at the mill in today’s market environment.”
Verso, (NYSE: VRS) based in Miamisburg, Ohio, reported on May 8 that it had $639 million in net sales for the first quarter of the year, which was flat compared to the quarter ending March 31, 2018. Net income totaled $36 million for the latest quarter. Total company sales volume was down from 722,000 tons during the first quarter of 2018, to 665,000 tons during the first quarter of 2019, driven by general softening of demand and increased imports for graphic papers, partially offset by an increase in specialty papers and packaging papers sales volume.
Verso closed at 21.22 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange; that was down by 0.32 cents per share or 1.49 percent. The company operates six paper mills other than Luke. It went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2016.