(Jan. 27, 9:25 a.m.) Packaging company Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., with headquarters in Chicago and Creve Coeur, Mo., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it struggles to refinance heavy debt.

The manufacturer of paperboard and paper-based packaging said Jan. 26 it filed for bankruptcy and its Canadian subsidiaries are also filing under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, according to a news release from the company.

All of the company’s operations outside the U.S. and Canada will be unaffected by the proceedings, and Smurfit-Stone said its normal day-to-day operations in the U.S. and Canada will continue without interruption.

Smurfit-Stone, the biggest cardboard maker in North America, listed total assets of about $7.45 billion and total debt of about $5.58 billion as of Sept. 30, according to the release.

The company plans to use the Chapter 11 process to restructure debt, resulting in a capital structure more suited to support its long-term growth and profitability.

“The acceleration of the unprecedented global economic recession has weakened demand for packaging, and the frozen credit markets have prevented an out-of-court refinancing of our capital structure,” chairman and chief executive officer Patrick Moore said in the release. “While this is not the outcome we anticipated, we are taking this action to become a more financially healthy company.”

Pending court approval, it had arranged $750 million in new financing to fund continuing operations, according to the release.