SYDNEY 9 January 2007 – New Forests Pty Limited announces the completion of its first investment in the Asia-Pacific region, positioning the Tropical Timber Fund (TTF) as the majority shareholder in Kolombangara Forest Products Ltd (KFPL) in the Solomon Islands. KFPL is the largest plantation forestry business in the Solomon Islands, producing high-value hardwood logs for export markets. New Forests will manage the asset on behalf of TTF, which is managed by Sydney-based funds management firm Seiza
The 39,000-hectare KFPL estate comprises 12,000 hectares of hardwood plantations, including teak, eucalyptus, gmelina, mahogany and others species, and over 25,000 hectares of natural rainforest under conservation and natural forest management. KFPL’s operations achieved Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in 1999, the first in the Asia-Pacific region. Certification was renewed in June 2006 for an additional five years, and the high social and environmental criteria required by this standard will remain a priority for New Forests.
“New Forests’ investment in KFPL, on behalf of TTF, brings the required capital for this promising business to meet its full potential,” says David Brand, Managing Director of New Forests. “KFPL’s future success will be based on the forestry management systems and solid infrastructure that it has developed over 17 years of operation, as well as its strategic location near growing Asia Pacific markets for timber.
“New Forests and TTF are also committed to sustainable forest management practices, and KFPL’s FSC certification was an important aspect of our investment decision.”
The transaction arrangements include a concessionary loan from the European Investment Bank to finance the purchase of new forestry machinery. The government of the Solomon Islands, through the Investment Corporation of the Solomon Islands (ICSI), also receives a STABEX grant provided by the European Union Sustainable Forestry and Conservation Project. The grant, which will finance plantation development, helps ICSI maintain its 40% ownership as the minority shareholder. This builds on its position in the original joint venture with the Commonwealth Development Corporation, the outgoing majority shareholder.
KFPL currently directly employs 230 people and provides work for up to a further 500 contractors. The company provides an alternative model for the future of the Solomon Island’s forestry sector, as logging of the country’s depleted native forests is expected to decline over the next five years. An estimated 240 additional jobs may be created in the longer term, making KFPL one of the largest employers in the country. Current production of 60,000 cubic meters per year is expected to increase to 180,000 cubic meters per year through improved silviculture regimes and enhanced efficiency of forestry operations, as plantations reach maturity and underperforming sites are re- established.
“KFPL’s ability to deliver quality timber products to the market should be enhanced through this new ownership and investment in the company,” says Simon LeGassicke, General Manager of KFPL. “All stakeholders on Kolombangara Island are looking forward to working with New Forests to ensure successful operations, sustained growth and a vibrant company.”
Logs from KFPL are exported directly from the two deep water ports on Kolombangara Island, and over 50% are sold to processors requiring FSC-certified wood. New Forests will be holding discussions with potential export partners seeking to service the growing global demand for the high-quality hardwood timber KFPL produces.