Old-line Oregon timber firm is bankrupt

PORTLAND — The Portland timber company Pope & Talbot has filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada, where it made a bet in the 1990s that turned out to be a loser, analysts said.

After new environmental restrictions made U.S. timber supplies uncertain in the 1990s, the company invested in British Columbia, location of seven of its nine mills.

But the slowdown in housing, the weakening U.S. dollar, and U.S. tariffs on Canadian lumber hurt the company, while the debt hampered its ability to respond, analysts told The Oregonian newspaper. Pope & Talbot reported a $42 million loss in the second quarter.

"Too much invested at the wrong time at the wrong place" Paul Latta, a forest products analyst at the Seattle brokerage McAdams Wright Ragen. "Other than that, it's been great."

Pope & Talbot is 158 years old and the last publicly owned forest products company in Oregon. Its stock has been delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

It has about 100 employees in its Portland headquarters and about 2,400 in all. It operates mills in Oregon and South Dakota as well as British Columbia.

The bankruptcy filing was made Sunday.

Pope & Talbot executives emphasized that the company will keep its mills and workers going as it reorganizes under bankruptcy protection.

Harold Stanton, the company's chief executive, issued a statement that "Pope & Talbot is taking all available steps to allow its business to continue operating."

The company was founded by Andrew Jackson Pope and Frederic Talbot who migrated from Maine to the West. It grew into a major shipping and timber force in the West, making the Fortune 500 list in 1988, according to a company history.

The company has offered itself for sale, but analysts said the housing slowdown will discourage buyers.

"You're just pushing on a rope," said Steve Chercover, an analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego.


Information from: The Oregonian, http:www.oregonlive.com

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