$1.1 billion deal would double Plum Creek’s SC timber land, make it part owner of Charleston-area development

jholleman@thestate.comOctober 28, 2013 

— A major S.C. landowner, Plum Creek Timber Co., plans to nearly double its Palmetto State acreage by buying 175,400 acres from MeadWestvaco.

That property is expected to remain as timberland, according to a Plum Creek news release. But as part of the deal, Plum Creek also would acquire a 50 percent interest in an additional 109,000 acres that MeadWestvaco planned to develop in the Charleston area.

Plum Creek also would buy about 325,000 acres of MeadWestvaco land in four other states – Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia. The total purchase price is nearly $1.1 billion – including $869 million for the timberland, $152 million for the 50 percent stake in the development-quality land near Charleston and $65 million for mineral rights and wind-power assets.

Seattle-based Plum Creek stepped up its S.C. land holdings about 10 years ago when long-standing timber giants began to sell their land. Before the MeadWestvaco deal, Plum Creek owned about 177,000 S.C. acres, much of it purchased from Georgia-Pacific. Most of that land remains in timber production, and Plum Creek intends to do the same with the MeadWestvaco timberland.

“These timber lands have a long history of excellent forest management,” Plum Creek chief executive Rick Holley said. “The high stocking levels and older age of the timberlands make them particularly attractive. These assets should integrate seamlessly into our existing timberland ownership in the Southeast.”

As part of the deal, Richmond, Va.-based MeadWestvaco gets a massive influx of cash, including about $665 million to be distributed to shareholders.

“This transaction delivers on all of our objectives,” MeadWestvaco CEO John A. Luke Jr. said. “It enables us to maximize the value of our land holdings in a tax-efficient manner, while retaining the substantial upside potential of the attractive real estate opportunities in the growing Charleston market. At the same time, we are maintaining a secure source of fiber for our mills.”

Once the purchase is complete, Plum Creek will own 352,400 acres in South Carolina, or about 1.7 percent of the state, plus its 50 percent interest in the 109,000-acre Charleston development site.

That site includes some developments already in the works, including the Nexton planned community and an industrial park in Summerville. But the largest chunk of the land is in long-term projects, including a 78,000-acre East Edisto project in Charleston and Dorchester counties, according to Westvaco.

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