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Katerra’s CLT Plant Sold as Mercer Enters Mass Wood Market

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August 6, 2021 | Bill Esler

Spokane, WA—Factory-made home builder Katerra has sold its state-of-the-art CLT plant in Spokane to Canadian wood products firm Mercer International Inc. (Nasdaq: MERC).

Katerra, which produces homes and related components in highly automated factories, received permission from its bankruptcy court in Texas to sell the plant. Katerra entered voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy as debtor-in-possession in June, following several years of rapid expansion that were upended by market turbulence related to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Biesse Uniteam CLT 400 machining centers at Spokane plant acquired by Mercer.

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas approved the sale to Mercer’s wholly-owned subsidiary for $50 million, subject to customary adjustments, with closing of the sale scheduled to occur shortly.

“Our impending acquisition of the facility. . .represents an attractive entry point for us into the CLT business with a near new state-of-the-art facility,” says Mercer CEO David Gandossi. “It fits well with our strategy to expand in the solid wood products space and aligns with a core value to provide sustainable and carbon reducing alternatives for a warming planet.”

Opened in late 2019, the facility is outfitted with a pair of Biesse Uniteam CLT 400 machining centers. It is located on 54 acres of land near Spokane and has an area of about 270,000-sq.-ft. equipped with extensive automation technologies including the Uniteams, the largest CLT presses in the world. It has a capacity of approximately:

  • 13 million sq. ft. of 5-ply panels annually
  • 140,000 cubic meters of annual production based on 5-day operations
  • Represents about 30 percent of current North American mass timber manufacturing capacity

Cross Laminated Timber, or CLT, is an engineered wood product produced from multiple layers of lumber and adhesive; each layer is laid up with its grain running perpendicular to the layer adjacent and pressed under heat to create large, high strength panels. The panels are modified by automated CNC machines to incorporate custom window, plumbing, electrical and fastening elements in accordance with the precise architectural specifications of the designer. The finished panels are then assembled in situ at the construction site.

CLT is principally used for commercial and residential building construction. Europe is the leading market for CLT design but the market in North America is growing steadily. The world tallest wood building, the 25-story Ascent, is under construction in Milwaukee. CLT-based building is attractive for its speed of construction, its low carbon footprint when compared to traditional building methods, and for its aesthetics. Contemporary building codes acknowledge its strength, fire resistance and carbon sink characteristics which make it an attractive construction method for builders of a number of the world’s LEED-certified buildings, some of which are over twenty stories in height.

Headquartered in Canada, Mercer International Inc. is a global forest products company with operations in Germany and Canada with consolidated annual production capacity of 2.2 million tons of pulp and 550 million board feet of lumber.

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