TOLEDO, Ohio – A privately owned company that supplies paper to magazine and catalog publishers is buying the North American operations of one of the world’s largest makers of paper products for about $2.1 billion.

NewPage Holding Corp., owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital, hopes the deal announced Friday will give it a boost in the shrinking U.S. paper industry, which has been hurt by Chinese imports and increasing use of the Internet.

NewPage owns and operates mills in Rumford, Maine, and in Michigan, Maryland and Kentucky.

NewPage is acquiring eight factories from Finland-based Stora Enso Oyj and will combine those plants with its North American coated paper operations that employ more than 4,300 people.

Stora Enso said the North American plants make a wide variety of products including paper for magazine and catalog publishers, retailers and commercial printers.

The transaction includes $1.5 billion in cash, a 20 percent equity stake valued at $370 million in the combined operation and $200 million in vendor notes, Stora Enso said.

NewPage, based in Dayton, also is assuming about $450 million in debt in the deal, expected to be completed in the first quarter.

The deal will help NewPage cut costs by $265 million each year, said Mark A. Suwyn, the company’s chairman and chief executive.

“This is also important in order to help us compete with illegally dumped and subsidized foreign imports,” he said in a statement.

NewPage has charged that Chinese paper imports have created unfair competition because Chinese companies receive subsidies from their government. That prompted the U.S. Commerce Department to announce earlier this year that it will impose sanctions against some Chinese paper imports.

Suwyn has said previously that the Chinese had been selling paper at up to 25 percent less than the price NewPage could offer.

Nearly 100 paper and paperboard mills in the U.S. have closed in the past six years, leaving 410 at the end of 2006, according to the American Forest and Paper Association and RISI Inc., an industry consulting company.

NewPage, one of the biggest U.S. paper producers, accounts for about 22 percent of the U.S. coated-paper business.

Its customers include magazine publishers Time Warner Inc. and the Hearst Corp.

Six of the mills it is buying are in Wisconsin and were a part of Consolidated Papers Inc., which in 2000 accepted a $4.8 billion offer from Stora Enso.

The other two factories in the deal are in Duluth, Minn., and Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, Canada.

NewPage was created in 2005 when it acquired the paper business once operated by the Mead Corp., which combined with Westvaco Corp. in 2001.

Analysts said Stora Enso sold the mills for less than expected, but said the move will allow it to cut its losses in North America, where it has struggled.

“Stora Enso is a European company which has had better success here and this will allow the new leadership to concentrate on improving performance on one continent,” said Harri Taittonen, chief analyst at Nordea Bank.

Stora Enso is one of the world’s largest forest product companies, making magazine paper, newsprint, fine paper, pulp and packaging boards. It employs 44,000 people in more than 40 countries.

Associated Press Writer Matti Huuhtanen in the Helsinki bureau contributed to this story.

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