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KapStone - stock

The KapStone Paper and Packaging mill in Longview.

The U.S. Department of Justice last week approved a $3.5 billion merger between WestRock Co. and KapStone Paper and Packaging Corp., a deal that makes the combined company one of the largest producers of paper and packaging products in the nation.

WestRock announced the decision on Oct. 30 after completion of an antitrust review with the Justice Department. In a press release, WestRock said last week that the merger would be completed by late last week.

When the merger was first announced in January, union leaders for the Longview mill said it was “very unlikely” the local mill would close under the deal because KapStone had made significant investments in it and WestRock was looking to expand its presence on the West Coast. And analysts said acquiring the Longview pulp mill would add more virgin fiber products to its portfolio, which important in the days of online shopping.

“Longview (mill) is and I think will continue to be strategic to WestRock,” Greg Pallesen, president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, said Monday.

AWPPW Local 153 represents about 800 workers at the mill.

Pallesen said the merger will likely result in some changes to the mill’s management and product line, but specifics are still unclear. Pallesen said he hasn’t heard of any decisions to change employment

However, the deal could lead to mill closings elsewhere, he said.

WestRock is based in Norcross, Georgia,. It was created in 2015 through a $16 billion merger of MeadWestvaco and Rock-Tenn, two smaller packaging firms. It has 42,000 employees worldwide.

WestRock officials did not return calls for comment.

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