ATLANTA -- When Weyerhaeuser put its six U.S. particleboard and MDF mills up for sale this past spring, Flakeboard management's ears perked up. Yet, Flakeboard President and CEO Kelly Shotbolt admitted that he did not think his company would be able to outbid other suitors to buy its much larger competitor.

Speaking at a press conference held Aug. 24 during the International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair, Shotbolt said about 30 companies and investor groups expressed interest in acquiring Weyerhaeuser. "We came into the bidding process late and did not believe we could win at first," Shotbolt said. He added that he was "surprised" and "absolutely delighted that we were the winning bidder."

The acquisition, terms of which were not disclosed, quadrupled Flakeboard's capacity. The buy-out includes particleboard mills in Albany, OR; Bennetsville, SC; and Simsboro, LA; and MDF mills in Bennetsville; Eugene, OR; and Malvern, AR. The mills have a combined capacity to produce 1.1 billion square feet of particleboard and MDF annually.

The "centerpieces" of the acquisition, according to Shotbolt, are the Bennetsville and Simsboro particleboard mills, which both feature 10-foot continuous presses.

Shotbolt said he believes the scale of Flakeboard's new capacity and having mills strategically located throughout North America to reduce freight costs to customers will help Flakeboard succeed at a time when about one-quarter of North American particleboard and MDF capacity has been lost in recent years.

"We will invest aggressively in the mills," Shotbolt said. He said by IWF 2008, Flakeboard will have at least one new melamine plant attached to one of the Weyerhaeuser mills, up and running.

Shotbolt said he believes more older particleboard and MDF plants will close in coming years as the North American furniture industry "continues to shrink" mainly due to imports from China. If this happens, Shotbolt said Flakeboard will be in a good position to expand its market share.

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