Currency printer set to rival British firm in London

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The Independent Online

A Canadian banknote maker is set to challenge British rival De La Rue on the London Stock Exchange as it eyes up a £200m flotation early next year.

Fortress Paper, which produces the euro for 10 countries, is considering a spin-off of its Swiss banknote division after seeing its shares tank in Toronto. As well as currency, Fortress produces wallpaper in Germany and speciality pulp in Canada.

The chairman, chief executive and major shareholder Chad Wasilenkoff is considering several options, including taking the whole group private, but is thought to be keenest on demerging into two or three companies. The German and British divisions could be spun-out separately, though together would be worth around £200m.

Mr Wasilenkoff said: "Our share price has been beaten up in recent months. We're such a diverse group of companies that we get what is called a 'holding company discount' on our share price, so any splitting would help investors evaluate our holdings better. We're currently worth less than the sum of our parts." He added that London was the favoured location, due to the large, active investor base.

Mr Wasilenkoff would just be chairman of the European business, but would remain in both senior positions in Canada.

Fortress saw 40 per cent wiped off its share price last Monday after announcing losses in its third quarter. The strength of the Swiss Franc against the euro, although abating, was still significant enough to hit the banknote division.

A switch to London would give De La Rue investors a peer to peg the Bank of England notemaker's performance against. It has had a strong 2012, having started trading in January at less than 900p but closing on Friday at 1062p.

Fortress is believed to have been one of the companies that picked up pieces of the Indian contract that De La Rue lost last year after production issues with some notes.