Metsä Wood, Europe’s largest LVL producer, joins forces with ITI/John Cook & Sons.

Metsä Wood, a leading European producer of engineered wood products, has entered into a new strategic partnership with ITI/John Cook & Sons, which will see ITI and Cooks become the key distributor of Metsä Wood EWP in Australia.

“Metsa is a perfect partner, one of the largest LVL producers in Europe with a high-quality product and a long-term sustainable fibre supply,” says Germano Tomassetti, ITI’s national business manager.

As part of ITI’s growth drive through acquisition and product expansion, a national EWP offer has always been part of the company’s strategy. “The missing link was a strong partner with the capacity to allow our business to expand our EWP offer nationally,” Tomassetti says.

“Until recently we had only distributed EWP in Victoria and South Australia for a number of years. Our previous supply of EWP limited our ability to go to the market on a national level. This relationship with Metsä changes that.”

Metsä Wood is part of Metsä Group, a forerunner in sustainable bioeconomy utilising renewable wood from sustainably managed northern forests. Metsä Group’s parent company, Metsäliitto Cooperative, is owned by approximately 103,000 Finnish forest owners. Metsä Wood’s products include Kerto LVL, plywood and other engineered wood products. It’s most famous as a high-quality LVL producer and today the production capacity of Kerto LVL exceeds 300,000 m3. Its sales in 2019 were 400 million euros, and it employs approximately 1500 people.

ITI is the largest independent timber distributor in Australia and one of the largest in NZ. With an office in Indonesia and manufacturing in Chile, the timber group now has close to 500 staff worldwide and carries the most extensive product range in Australia. The group continues to drive for expansion and work with its independent customers to bring to them the highest quality products from around the globe.

“The national EWP offer helps ITI complete its timber offer to the market and allows us to continue with our expansion plans to become a ‘one stop shop’ for our customers,” says Tomassetti. “This is a significant partnership between a resource-based producer and Australia’s largest national timber distributor, one that will ensure a consistent supply of EWP into the Australian marketplace for years to come.”

Why European?

ITI concentrates on quality and reliability in its partnership choices, with the latter a key force behind their decisions.

“There are a number of reasons for working with a European supplier and in particular Metsä,” Tomassetti says. “The first and most critical was reliability of supply, Metsä has sustainable, long-term fibre supply and this gives us confidence to take our offer nationally.”

It’s a timely move, with the withdrawal of Carter’s EWP from the Australian market recently announced, at the same time as HomeBuilder and other government-funded initiatives attempt to push up demand by kick-starting the construction industry through the Covid period.

“This partnership is well aligned with Metsä Wood’s growth strategy in Australia and its ongoing commitment here,” says Virva Juhola, SVP sales Metsä Wood. “Metsä Wood has been successfully supplying the Australian market for several years and this partnership will further enhance and enrich the Metsä Wood offer. We are proud of this partnership and looking forward to the future growth in the market.”

With EWP increasing their share of the construction market every year, more competition is welcome, particularly when it includes high-strength LVL products, which are increasingly being specified by designers but previously in limited standard supply.

Tomassetti says, “Metsä has given us the ability to introduce a new E14.5 LVL product in the traditional 45 and 63mm thicknesses that will substitute directly for E15 in the same depth product.

“This new product is exclusive to ITI and provides us with a unique product offer. This higher strength rated product was not available from local manufacturers in the quantity we require and so Europe was our only option. Quality was another reason we wanted to work with Metsä – their product has a strong reputation in the market as a high-quality product and the Kerto brand is highly regarded in Europe.”

While no one is making predictions about the next few years with any certainty at the moment, it’s encouraging to see two major timber names come together. ITI and Cooks have been working on the partnership with Metsä for over 12 months.

“Securing this supply agreement with Metsä has allowed us to build on the work done by our businesses in SA and Victoria and take EWP to all our customers on a national basis,” says Tomassetti.

“We have quickly expanded our EWP team nationally, both in sales and technical fields, with five new detailers already added to the team and more to come.

“We have also introduced two new highly experienced senior people to the team in Qld and NSW in sales and management and invested in infrastructure, software and people to ensure our customers receive the high-quality service standards they have come to expect from us.”

The fates have clearly smiled on the venture, with pandemic lockdowns and freight issues across much of Europe having almost no impact.

Tomassetti says, “With some good planning and a little luck, we have been fortunate that our supply from Europe has not been greatly impacted on by Covid-19 and so supplies of the current range of EWP are healthy.”

ITI promises more announcements in the coming months as it continues to work on further expansion of its nationwide EWP product offering.

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