West Fraser predicts higher lumber prices

Company CEO, president and chairman Hank Ketchum pointed to a number of “primary reasons” for the results.

  • Feb. 28, 2012 7:00 a.m.

West Fraser’s fourth quarter saw $6.1 million in earnings, or $0.14 per share of sales.

The figures are based off $650 million in 2011 and are after discontinued operations of $7.3 million or $1.47 per share on sales of $2,762 million for 2011.

Earnings (loss) for continuing operations sits at 11 million.

Company CEO, president and chairman Hank Ketchum pointed to a number of “primary reasons” for the results.

In the quarter our lumber operations generated an operating loss of $30 million ( third quarter – negative $15 million) and operating earnings plus amortization (EBITDA) of negative $8 million (third quarter – $6 million).

The decline in results reflects weaker prices for lower-grade spruce, pine, fir (SPF) lumber and wider-dimension southern, yellow pine (SYP) lumber and reduced shipments.

The panel segment, which includes plywood, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and medium, density fiberboard (MDF) did not generate any operating earnings in the quarter (third quarter – negative $2 million) and EBITDA of $4 million (third quarter – $2 million) as Canadian dollar plywood and MDF prices showed some improvement.

Pulp and paper operations generated operating earnings in the quarter of $13 million (third quarter – $19 million) and EBITDA of $27 million (third quarter – $36 million).

Pulp prices weakened during the quarter with the northern, bleached, softwood, kraft (NBSK) benchmark averaging seven per cent lower than in the third quarter.

“Shipments to China were slower as well,” Ketchum said, adding the company was seeing prices pick up “substantially in the new year.”

“We ended a challenging year with a difficult quarter as markets for our products continue to be unsettled.

“We are very encouraged with the results of our capital investment program as well as the continued commitment of our employees to West Fraser’s long-term success.”

Ketchum also highlighted the prediction lower grade lumber would see an increase in price.