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The Navigator Company – a subsidiary of SEMAPA PLC

Saturday 9th March 2024.

Using the forest as a resource for doing business – with eucalyptus monocultures – is something that always works in favour of the Navigator Company. Even after a forest fire, woodland owners can still send the scorched trunks of their eucalyptus trees to the cellulose factory. The wood is lighter in that case: the Navigator Company takes the wood, pays a lower price and can still use it to produce paper. No problem at all.

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“Raising funds” has always been important for the Navigator Company: their cash flow has to be carefully managed. So, ten years ago, in 2014, during a visit to my bank, when it had become clear that Portugal would be far too small to satisfy the Navigator Company’s insatiable appetite for eucalyptus, the branch manager drew my attention to a project in which I could invest and make a tidy profit. At the time, Navigator was still called Portucel Ltd – the mother company, however, has always been the same one: SEMAPA PLC, which, at this moment, holds exactly 497,617,299 shares in the Navigator Company, amounting to 69.97% of the capital and giving it a two-thirds majority. The Queiroz-Pereira family clan, three sisters, daughters of the patriarch himself, who unexpectedly died in the past decade, are the ones who have the qualified majority that enables them to control the company, through the indirect shares that they hold. At that time, the Portuguese paper manufacturer, the third largest worldwide, was already expanding into Mozambique, where it was planning to plant even more land with eucalyptus monocultures on an industrial scale. The hunt for investors was on, and the company was offering up to five per cent interest on shareholdings of over 150 million euros. Two banks, BPI and Barclays, mustered twice the required cash amounts, 300 million euros each.

By now, the company is the country’s third largest exporter, with a share of around 1% of Portugal’s PIB, amounting to 2.4% of the country’s entire exports of goods, as well as providing over 30,000 direct and indirect jobs. The Navigator Company is also the Portuguese export firm with the highest national level of value added, says the EIB. In 2021, Navigator achieved a turnover of 1.596 billion euros. Over 90% of the group’s products are sold outside Portugal, being shipped to some 130 countries. This places the company at the same level as the family-run Amorim conglomerate, which produces and sells cork.

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Uwe Heitkamp (64)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123. Translations: Dina Adão, John Elliot, Ruth Correia, Patrícia Lara, Kathleen Becker
Photos: Uwe Heitkamp

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