BUCKSPORT — An international firm with offices in Mumbai, Singapore and New York City wants to buy the closed Verso mill and operate it as a papermaking facility, according to a letter filed Sunday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Rahul Kejriwal, the head of Kejriwal Singapore International, sent the letter, dated Jan. 16, to the federal judge considering whether the sale of the mill to a subsidiary of scrap dealer American Iron & Metal for $58 million violates antitrust laws because the firm said it had expressed interest in buying the mill but was told it had been sold.

That letter, along with letters from Gov. Paul LePage and Rosaire Pelletier, the senior forest products adviser to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, was posted Sunday afternoon on the court system’s electronic case filing system.

Pelletier in December said there was an operator interested in the mill but did not name the firm.

LePage’s letter, dated Jan. 16, said that his administration had worked to find a buyer for the mill and keep its workers employed.

“I thought we had done just that,” LePage wrote. “Instead, Verso agreed to sell the mill to a Canadian metal recycler, American Iron and Metal Company. What disturbs our administration even further is that more than one firm had expressed genuine interest in acquiring the asset in Bucksport to continue papermaking activities.”

Pelletier said in his letter that confidentiality agreements with potential buyers prevented him from revealing what firms had been interested in buying the mill.

All three letters were addressed to U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr., who is considering whether the sale of the mill to AIM violates antitrust laws and has scheduled a status conference in the case for 8 a.m. Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

“When we learned about the impending closing of the Bucksport Pulp and Paper mill … we made inquiries about purchasing the mill and were told the mill had been sold,” Kejriwal’s letter said. “We have a plan to acquire and resume operations at Bucksport if we are able to acquire it, potentially hiring several hundred people and sourcing Maine forest products.

“We are aware of a case currently pending before Your Honor in which a question has been raised whether potential operators have an interest in the Bucksport mill,” Kejriwal, who listed an address in Forest Hills, New York, wrote.

“Please be advised that we have a strong interest in operating the Bucksport pulp and paper mill. As well as we have the expertise, the customers and the financial resources to make the mill a success for many years to come,” the letter said.

Kejriwal described the firm as an “international paper manufacturing and sales organization with more than $1 billion in sales of paper and paper related products and more than 8,000 employees in 23 countries. We are the world’s largest manufacturer of ruled recycled paper products and are one of the largest newsprint manufacturers in Asia, principally selling into the rapidly growing publications paper market there.”

Information about the firm was not readily available Sunday. Kejriwal did not list a telephone number on the letter. A firm named Kejriwal Newsprint LLC was registered in January 2014 with the state of New York at the Forest Hills address.

John Carr, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists, which sued Verso last month to stop the sale, said late Saturday in an email that “the court received documents from various sources” about a potential operator but declined to name the firm.

“We are confident this is driving the call for the status conference,” Carr said. “What the judge will or will not release at that time we won’t speculate on.”

Carr also said that the letters were sent to Woodcock at the behest of the machinists union and its attorneys “with assistance from the governor’s office.”

Efforts to reach the governor’s communications officer were unsuccessful over the weekend.

At a hearing before Woodcock on Jan. 13, attorneys for Verso and AIM denied there was buyer other than the scrap dealer.

Clifford Ruprecht, who represents AIM, told Woodcock the company is “ready, willing and able to sell the mill to someone willing to pay more than the sale price, but we’ve seen no evidence that such a buyer exists.”

Ruprecht and David E. Barry, who represents Verso, declined Sunday in an email to comment on the pending case.

Both attorneys said after the hearing last week that they would not comment on the case until Woodcock issues his ruling.

Officials of the machinists union sued Verso in December in an effort to halt the pending sale of the mill to a subsidiary of scrap dealer American Iron & Metal. The lawsuit alleged the sale violates federal antitrust laws and is part of an attempt to monopolize the market for coated paper, which is used in magazines and catalogs.

The union also accused the company of trying to “evade its legal obligation” under state law to make timely payments for severance, final wages and accrued 2015 vacation time. Woodcock on Jan. 6 dismissed that portion of the lawsuit in an 86-page ruling.

Attorneys for Verso and AIM told Woodcock last week that the sale closing was on hold, due to the lawsuit and because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had not yet agreed to transfer permits to operate the power plant at the Bucksport Mill to AIM.

FERC approved the permit transfer Thursday, according to a previously published report. The closing is expected to be scheduled once Woodcock issues his decision.


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