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Executive Talk

Promoting wood to replace plastics

Anders Bergkvist of Stora Enso has worked internationally ever since his graduation in the mid-1990s and seen big changes in the paper and pulp industry, where his company’s focus is now on renewable materials.

TEXT: Jan Hökerberg
30 OCTOBER, 2018

2

The number of wedding ceremonies Bergkvist had – one in Lagos, Nigeria, and one in Stockholm.

When Anders Bergkvist was an exchange student in the German city of Cologne in the early 1990s he discovered how fun and interesting it was to live in a country other than Sweden. So when he graduated from Stockholm School of Economics in 1996 with a Master of Science, Business and Economics, his first priority was to move abroad.

He didn’t have to wait long. He was approached by Stora, a Swedish forest industry company that he had been in touch with while working on his thesis. They asked whether he would like to work on risk control for their finance company in Brussels.

“It was a simple decision to say yes,” says Bergkvist, who commenced the job in January 1997. Since then, he has lived abroad for almost 22 years and still works for the same employer, which is now called Stora Enso after a merger in 1999 with the Finnish company Enso Oyj.

Bergkvist was born in 1972 in Sollentuna, a municipality north of Stockholm, but grew up in the towns of Askersund and Växjö, where he completed upper secondary school, before entering the Stockholm School of Economics.

After two years at Stora in Brussels, he moved on to become financial controller in the company’s Singapore office.

“It was an interesting time, with first a booming Asian economy and then the Asian financial crisis. I stayed for two-and-a-half years and made many good friends that I still keep in touch with to this day.”

However, after the merger, Stora Enso decided to centralise all its financial operations to Brussels. Bergkvist decided to take a break and move to Paris for MBA studies at the INSEAD Business School, where he met his wife-to-be Tinuade, who is from Nigeria.

When both had graduated with MBAs, they spent a couple of years in different parts of the world. Bergkvist had gone back to Stora Enso in Brussels to work on structure finance while Tinuade worked in Washington DC for the International Finance Corporation, a part of the World Bank group.

In 2003, Bergkvist moved to London, where several years later he was appointed global head of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and corporate finance. Tinuade, who had grown up in the UK, joined him in London in 2005, the year they also married – not just once but twice: one ceremony in Stockholm and another in Lagos, Nigeria. Today, the couple have three daughters, Simisola, 12, Linnea, 10, and Sofia, seven, who were all born in the UK.

When the paper industry was first impacted by the fast-growing digitalisation of media in around 2005, Stora Enso reacted quickly.

“The company decided to sell businesses that we didn’t believe had good growth prospects and at the same time it made some big greenfield investments. We built a large pulp mill in Uruguay together with the Chilean pulp producer Arauco and we developed the plantation we have in [the autonomous region of] Guangxi in southern China and ultimately decided to set up a consumer board mill there,” says Bergkvist.

“We divested both of our North American operations, which were the first to be hit by digitalisation, and our European paper merchant business just before the global financial crisis struck, so when the crisis came we were in a good shape,” he says.

Since Bergkvist had been much involved in the company’s China projects, especially the huge project in Guangxi, he had been to Hong Kong and China many times before he got a chance in 2013 to move with his family to Hong Kong, where he is now senior vice president and head of controlling for China.

“Since both my wife and I got the opportunity to move to Hong Kong for work, we decided to take the chance. We had been to the city many times and knew it is a fascinating place of East meeting West but also, not less important, a great environment for our children to grow up in,” says Bergkvist.

Wood is a raw material with a great future. You can make more trees but not more oil.”

In just a bit more than a decade, Stora Enso has gone from being a traditional paper and board producer to becoming a global renewable materials growth company. China is the company’s third biggest market after Finland and Sweden.

In 2006, paper represented 70 per cent of Stora Enso’s business, while today it is less than 30 per cent. Today, one key focus area is packaging, which has a strong growth due to e-commerce, and also paperboard materials, such as liquid packaging for milk and other drinks.

“We are working on making liquid packaging totally renewable. Plastics are not sustainable. Wood is a raw material with a great future. You can make more trees but not more oil. Using wooden fibres to replace plastics is a big opportunity that we are pushing towards at the moment,” says Bergkvist.

“On the wood products side, wooden houses have many advantages and are superior compared to traditional buildings. During both the construction and occupational phases, less greenhouse gases are emitted and with shorter construction time it can be very cost-efficient. We have built a multi-storey wooden building in London and other wooden buildings in Stockholm and Helsinki. Wood can be used for so many purposes. We have even made a prototype of a wooden bicycle. There are no limits to the use of wooden raw materials,” he says.

The Bergkvist family lives in Chung Hom Kok on Hong Kong Island. When he is not working, Bergkvist likes to spend his time supporting the children’s activities, going hiking or cooking dinner at home or having a barbeque by the beach. Bergkvist is also a member of SwedCham Hong Kong’s board of directors, where he is the treasurer.

“As chief financial officer for our new 800 million euros investment in Beihai I spent three days a week in southwestern China over the past couple of years. While the start-up has gone well both financially and operationally it’s not ideal to be away that much when you have a family. But from August we have a new organisation so I can manage my time better between Shanghai, Guangxi and our home in Hong Kong,” says Bergkvist.

Biggest Nordic direct investment ever in China

In 2016, Stora Enso inaugurated a consumer board mill outside Beihai in Guangxi. It has an annual capacity of 450,000 tonnes of liquid packaging cardboard and other high-grade paperboard products and a total investment cost of 800 million euros.

As early as 2002, the company started to develop 80,000 hectares of a sustainable plantation with main species of eucalyptus that today provide the wood to the mill. The plantation has both Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and China Forest Certification Council (CFCC) certifications, as responsible and sustainable forestry is fundamental to the project. It is the biggest total investment made by a Nordic company in China.

The company also has a mill in Dawang, Shandong province, for publication paper, which is a joint venture with a Chinese company, Huatai Paper. In 2011, Stora Enso acquired Inpac International, which has four plants for consumer packaging in China.

In total, Stora Enso employs around 5,500 people in China.