Last month the company said it would be expanding capacity at its Newbridge mill, underpinned by a new log supply deal with Natural Resources Wales. And just a few days later it announced its acquisition of Southampton-based RF Giddings & Co Ltd for an undisclosed sum.

This latter development is described as a strategic move to expand the group’s UK network and increase capacity across the business.

BSW will formally take over the business on August 1 and has plans to double sawn capacity at the mill to more than 60,000m3 over the next 12 months by introducing additional shifts.

This extra investment and increased production is set to secure the existing 30-strong workforce as well as creating 10 new jobs at the New Forest site.

RF Giddings is a fourth generation sawmiller specialising in the production of high quality materials for the fencing, pallet and construction markets. The company has been based at its current site since 1942 and has built up a strong reputation and supply network – acknowledged as key factors in BSW’s decision to acquire the company.

"We have worked with the Giddings family for almost two years and have built a strong relationship with them," said BSW chief executive Tony Hackney. "They are very competent sawmillers and our relationship with them will continue, although the corporate governance of the mill will now fall under BSW."

Mr Hackney added that the mill would continue to trade as RF Giddings while the customer and supply bases were notified but said at some point the name would change to BSW Southampton.

The acquisition gives BSW a good foothold in southern England. In combination with the Newbridge mill in Wales Mr Hackney said it gave the company "a good geographic spread with great development potential to serve the London market".

He added that the company is very keen to maintain and build on RF Gidding’s existing supply links.

"We’ll strengthen those relationships and grow them as we increase the capacity of the mill," he said. "This will present opportunities for both the Forestry Commission and the private sector growers in that area.

"The quality of timber from the New Forest area is excellent and provides us with opportunities to grow the added value sector in fencing and landscaping products," he said. "We will major on those [products] initially but have an investment programme planned."

He added that BSW was maintaining the current exclusive marketing agreement of all sawn timber with Taylor Maxwell Timber. "This will ensure continuity of supply to existing customers as well as allowing them to buy from other BSW sites across the UK," he said.
Meanwhile, BSW’s Newbridge mill is set to dramatically increase output following the company’s success in securing a major 10-year log supply deal with Natural Resources Wales.

The log deal will see BSW receive an additional 600,000m3 of larch log supply over a 10-year period, with all logs being sourced from Welsh woodlands. Existing annual log supplies of more than 700,000m3 have also been resecured over the same period.

BSW said the log deal would have a "significant" impact on the Newbridge mill, whose stated current sawn timber production capacity is 150,000m3 annually.

It will also provide a ready market for larch, which is being felled as part of the project to combat the tree disease Phytophthera ramorum, which is affecting about a fifth of Welsh larch.

"We’re really pleased that NRW has supported us with a growth plan for Newbridge because not only does it underpin the security of the existing site, it also allows us to grow capacity and increase our product lines," said Mr Hackney.

"This is predominantly about larch but it’s also about the continuance of spruce in the future, so it offers a balanced portfolio of products from the Newbridge mill. And not just for the next 10 years – this is a long-term commitment to Wales plc."
Plans to develop the Newbridge mill are already well advanced.

"We’re revamping the existing mill, increasing pressure treatment capacity and sorting capacity and we’re going to build a new sawline," said Mr Hackney. "And we’re not hanging about. We’re already placing orders for equipment," he said.

He added that it will be a phased approach but should be completed by the end of 2015.