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U.S company tipped to buy Waivunu sawmill

August 30, 2013

Two major sales by the Fiji Hardwood Corporation Ltd – and the question is: are there favoured buyers?

The Navutu timber manufacturing yard in Lautoka and the Waivunu sawmill in Navua have both been put up for sale and expressions of interest called for.

2011: Big talk of manufacturing Gibson guitars.

The Corporation describes the sale as ‘as-is where-is’.

Those following the trail of Fiji’s Green Gold say the American-based guitar making company, Pacific Western Timber, is a frontrunner for the Waivunu mill, which has a 73 year lease.

Pacific Western Timbers was granted 40,000 cubic metres of G3 quality mahogany logs when licences were issued – even though it wasn’t even incorporated in Fiji.

The company, which is owned by John Wagner of Sustainable Mahogany Industries, doesn’t have a sawmill or equipment and according to its licence was to ‘set up a saw milling facility in Vanua Levu.’

It has, however, been delivering logs from the forest in Viti Levu to SMI mill for processing.

Insiders say the deal was approved by the Ministry of Public Enterprises and Elizabeth Powell, even though they knew Pacific Western Timber was never going to fulfil its licence requirements.

They say the expression of interest, which closes September 12, is a gimmick and that Wagner’s company will ultimately buy the FHCL set-up to process its logs so its submission to set up a mill in Vanua Levu was a lie all along.

Readers will remember John Wagner gifted Frank Bainimarama a Gibson guitar in 2011 and the big plan was originally for the famous guitars to be made in Fiji.

Bloggers will also recall that Wagner paid $1m for its logs and was first to be granted a mahogany licence.

The FCHL’s tender notice says preference will be given to applicants who intend to re-employ redundant workers from Waivunu and Navutu.

Source – Coupfourpointfive; Posted by Rusi Varani for SWM
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