Shares rose 73 cents, or 1.6%, to $46.79, the highest since Aug. 19. A potential buyer could be Koch Industries, the privately held company run by the Koch brothers, according to social media commentary that was reported by news media including Bloomberg.
International Paper hasn't responded to press inquiries regarding the account.
One argument in favor of a transaction is that the paper industry has been a dynamic sector for deal making, with multiple transactions having been completed in recent years. IP itself has been part of the trend, agreeing in May to buy the pulp business of Weyerhaeuser (WY) - Get Report for $2.2 billion in cash. The Department of Justice approved that deal just last week.
Meanwhile, Koch Industries has a fairly substantial footprint in the paper business. In 2005, the company bought Georgia Pacific, the tissue products maker known for such products as Brawny paper towels. Koch paid $13 billion for the asset, a 40% premium at the time. The price reflected Koch confidence that it could improve Georgia Pacific's financial condition so that less of the company's capital resources went to finance its debt, and more could be steered toward improving its operations.
The Georgia Pacific transaction seemed, at the time, to show an effort by Koch to pivot away from its core businesses in oil and pipelines into an enterprise with exposure to consumer products. By making a bid for IP, Koch may be able to show it's making a lateral move rather than a transformative move. Even so, IP's paper businesses are aimed more at industrial customers, while Georgia-Pacific is more oriented to individual consumers.
Koch's purchase of Georgia Pacific actually was presaged by smaller transactions that Koch made for some of Georgia Pacific's pulp plants the preceding year. And if Koch can be seen pressing its nose up against the glass with smaller transactions, the same could be true with IP.
In December 2012, Koch bought an IP unit that operated a brace of factories, a deal that gives the two companies at least a modicum of shared DNA.
Arguing against a Koch investment in IP may be the paper maker's recently expanded debt profile. IP has just hit the credit markets for $2.3 billion to fund its acquisition of the Weyerhaeuser assets, and it's not clear how accommodating Koch Industries might be to the heavier debt load. On the other hand, even Moody's recently said that the capital raising hasn't appreciably increased IP's leverage.