MONTREAL, Nov. 19 /CNW Telbec/ - AbitibiBowater announced today that, as part of its restructuring process, it had entered into agreements with the Government of Ontario related to funding relief in respect of the material aggregate solvency deficits in the registered pension plans the Company sponsors in Ontario and Quebec. The agreements will enable the Company to seek the waiver of the conditions, as detailed in its restructuring plans, regarding the adoption of funding relief regulations. On September 14, the Government of Quebec announced an agreement between the Company and the Régie des rentes du Québec for similar relief measures. The agreements finalized with the provinces of Ontario and Quebec provide, among other things, that the Company will meet its future pension obligations in full to the beneficiaries.
"The best way to ensure pension benefits continue to be paid out is to ensure a company stays in business. We are pleased that AbitibiBowater will continue to operate, that thousands of Ontarians will continue to be employed, and that existing pensioners will continue to receive their benefits," stated Dwight Duncan, Ontario Minister of Finance.
In addition, an agreement for the next five years has been entered into by the Government of Ontario and what will become one of AbitibiBowater's Canadian subsidiaries post emergence, AbiBow Canada, regarding its pulp and paper operations in the province. AbiBow Canada has agreed to apply specific measures regarding its governance and investment levels as well as the sustainability of its operations in Ontario.
"The agreement affects thousands of workers, retirees and families in Ontario and allows the Company to move towards the finalization of its emergence from creditor protection. We are all very pleased to see AbitibiBowater get back on its feet, and I am especially appreciative of the support of my colleague at the Ministry of Finance, Minister Dwight Duncan, for making this happen," said Michael Gravelle, Ontario Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry.
This agreement will become effective as of the time of AbitibiBowater's emergence from creditor protection. Moreover, the parties have agreed to re-evaluate the covenants of the agreement at the end of the initial five-year term in light of the Company's situation, the conditions affecting the pulp and paper industry as a whole and the solvency of its pension plans.
"We have signed today an agreement that is a significant step toward our emergence. We are convinced we have obtained the best deal possible for all our employees and retirees in Canada, and we would like to thank the Government of Ontario for its ongoing support," stated David J. Paterson, President and Chief Executive Officer of AbitibiBowater.
The Company directly employs approximately 8,500 workers and has in the order of 20,000 pensioners in Ontario and Quebec. These agreements are subject to AbitibiBowater's and its subsidiaries' emergence from creditor protection, which is expected to occur this fall, and is subject to confirmation of its U.S. plan of reorganization.
AbitibiBowater produces a wide range of newsprint, commercial printing and packaging papers, market pulp and wood products. It is the eighth largest publicly traded pulp and paper manufacturer in the world. AbitibiBowater owns or operates 19 pulp and paper facilities and 24 wood products facilities located in the United States, Canada and South Korea. Marketing its products in more than 70 countries, the Company is also among the world's largest recyclers of old newspapers and magazines, and has third-party certified 100% of its managed woodlands to sustainable forest management standards. AbitibiBowater's shares trade over-the-counter on the Pink Sheets and on the OTC Bulletin Board under the stock symbol ABWTQ.
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