John Williams wants to diversify Domtar Corp. from the declining business of making paper, but not too far.
Williams, who is based in Fort Mill along with 500 employees of Domtar’s pulp and paper division, wants to move the Montreal-based company toward the personal-care business.
John Williams, CEO of Domtar Corp., wants to make acquisitions but doesn’t want to go too far afield.
But here’s why: Most of the ingredients in person-care items like adult diapers are paper pulp, one of a paper mill’s two main products. The other is paper.
Yes, Williams says on Friday, he’s interested in mergers and acquisitions “but nothing that would stretch us out too far.”
Williams, born in the United Kingdom, was the keynote speaker at the British American Business Council Charlotte’s holiday luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte. About 300 attended the event during which outgoing BABC President Jeff Hay, a Charlotte attorney, received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory surprised the group by presenting the state’s highest honor himself. Hay, obviously moved by the award, called his time spent in service to BABC “the most amazing of my career.”
But back to business and Domtar. Williams told Bloomberg in August that acquisitions are definitely on the plate for the company. Demand for paper is slowing by 3% to 5% each year. Domtar expects to spend $1 billion or more on acquisitions, he told Bloomberg.
Williams told me not to expect Domtar to stray far in its merger adventures from the core market of pulp and paper. Most targets will be companies that use paper and pulp as their raw materials. A good example is Domtar’s purchase of Spanish adult-diaper maker Indas.
Still, moving more heavily in the personal-care sector will be a tremendous change for Domtar. Now 1% of revenue comes from that segment; 85% of revenue comes from pulp and paper manufacturing.
At the holiday event, Williams, who holds a degree in British and American literature, spoke about the differences between the Queen’s English and American English. For example, when a Brit tells you “you really must come for dinner,” that is no immediate invitation. It’s OK to “wait several decades” to show up for dinner, he said.