Weyerhaeuser Co. announced it has paid a dividend worth $5.6 billion as part of its plan to convert to a real estate investment trust (REIT). The announcement was made Wednesday, Sept. 1, the day before an Oregon newspaper reported Weyerhaeuser will close its engineered wood products plant in Albany, Ore.

The special dividend was given to shareholders of record as of July 22 and consisted of a combination of 324 million shares of common stock and $560 million in cash.

Ownership by REIT differs from that of a typical public company in that, under this special program for companies dealing in real estate and mortgages, REITs receive special tax considerations and typically offer investors high yields.

A large number of Weyerhaeuser's competitors already are owned by REITs, and Weyerhaeuser officials have said they believe the REIT structure will help them compete. On July 30, the Federal Way, Wash.-based company announced it's wood products group posted a $3 million contribution loss to pretax earnings in the second quarter, recovering from a $162 million loss in 2009's second quarter and a $19 million deficit in this year's first quarter, as sales revenues jumped 32.8% to $789 million. But the company also predicted its loss will widen "significantly" in the current quarter as market prices for its lumber and oriented strand board decline.

The company also noted then that it had "experienced a considerable drop in sales volumes for engineered wood products." Given that backdrop, the closure of the engineered wood plant in Albany appears to be a logical result. About 70 workers will be laid off effective Oct. 30, after the plant has run limited operations to fill customer orders.