Not too long ago there was a very real prospect that paper manufacturer Sappi would have to close its doors. Weighed down by debt ramped up in the good old days before the 2008 financial crisis and the rise of digitisation, this was a company vulnerable to the excesses of the early part of the century. About nine years ago, Sappi was trading at an all-time low of R17 a share, having plummeted more than 80% from its 2002 record high. The company had borrowed substantially to expand into Europe and US on the back of its traditional graphic paper business. This segment of the paper business went into decline later because of the advent of smartphones, among other technologies. Its debt, which peaked at around R20bn a decade ago, coupled with a shrinking market, appeared likely to sound the death knell for the company whose first mill was established in Springs, east of Johannesburg, 82 years ago.I've always paid close attention to the company, mainly for sentimental ...

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