Georgia’s $15 billion-a-year timber industry, which was hurt by the downturn in the housing industry during the recent recession, is showing signs of a comeback. (AJC)

Atlanta REIT CatchMark acquiring timberland in southeast Georgia

CatchMark Timber Trust Inc., an Atlanta-based real estate investment trust, said it is acquiring 36,340 acres of timberland in southeast Georgia and east Texas from Hancock Timber Resource Group for about $74 million.

The announcement sent the newly publicly traded company’s stock higher in trading Friday. CatchMark President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Barag said the deal is in line with the company’s strategy “to make selective and accretive acquisitions of prime forest land with substantial harvest inventory.”

Georgia’s $15 billion-a-year timber industry, which was hurt by the downturn in the housing industry during the recent recession, is showing signs of a comeback. Companies are adjusting operations to meet rising construction demands.

Rayonier Inc., a global forest products company with major manufacturing operations in South Georgia, recently announced plans to focus more on its timber business by separating it from its chemicals business. Rayonier owns, manages or leases 716,620 acres of woodland in the state. The company said some of the timberland is suited for real estate development along the Georgia and Florida coasts.

Georgia-Pacific said it plans to invest nearly $400 million in its plywood and lumber operations in the coming years. The money will be used to expand plants and upgrade equipment in Georgia and several other states.

CatchMark owns about 278,100 acres of timberland in west-central Georgia and east-central Alabama, with 89 percent of the property owned by the company and the remainder leased.

CatchMark’s deal with Hancock allows it to acquire about 1.45 million tons of merchantable timber, the company said. The deal involves land near Waycross and in East Texas near Panola.

CatchMark was founded in 2006 and went public on the New York Stock Exchange last December. On Friday, the company’s shares traded higher, up 14 cents, or 1 percent, at $13.30 around lunchtime.

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