Wood Business

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Interfor sets production record

Aug. 1, 2014 - INTERFOR CORPORATION reported second quarter net earnings of $21.6 million or $0.32 per share and EBITDA of $47.3 million, excluding the impact of one-time items including the restructuring and impairment charges related to the permanent closure of its Beaver-Forks operation announced today. Inclusive of these charges, net earnings in the quarter were $7.4 million or $0.11 per share.

Lumber production in the second quarter was a record 582 million board feet, up 18% from the prior quarter. This growth reflects the addition of the Perry and Preston sawmills in March 2014, and higher operating rates at the company's BC Interior and US Southeast operations.

Record lumber sales of 628 million board feet, including wholesale and agency volumes, were driven primarily by the increase in sales from the Company's US Southeast operations and by the draw-down of lumber inventories from the first quarter.

On June 27, 2014, the Company announced a curtailment of its Beaver-Forks operation on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Following a comprehensive strategic review, the Company has decided to consolidate production at its Port Angeles facility and to close the Beaver-Forks operation. By consolidating operations on the Peninsula, the Company believes it can enhance operations in the area and improve its overall financial results. Interfor recorded asset impairment and restructuring charges in the second quarter totalling $14.2 million relating to the Beaver-Forks operation, net of an $8.5 million deferred tax recovery. For the quarter, Beaver-Forks contributed $9.7 million of sales and negative EBITDA(1) of $0.4 million on production and sales of 21 million and 20 million board feet, respectively.

Average commodity lumber prices were mixed in the second quarter. Western SPF 2x4 and HF Stud 2x4 prices dropped to US$335 and US$409, down US$32 and US$23, respectively, in part due to the impact of lumber inventories from the first quarter working their way through the distribution channel. The SYP Eastside 2x4 #2Btr benchmark price strengthened US$2 quarter-over-quarter to US$405 as transportation issues impacted the ability to move product to market. Demand for lumber in China was relatively stable with some tightening of credit apparent. Activity in Japan continued to reflect post-VAT impacts.

A long-term incentive compensation recovery of $0.4 million, or less than $0.01 per share, was recorded in the quarter.

In the second quarter, Interfor generated $45.7 million in cash from operations before working capital changes and $41.7 million after working capital changes. Capital spending amounted to $15.9 million during the quarter.

In April, the company's Gilchrist mill completed the installation of a high-speed European moulder as part of its strategy to convert the mill into a producer of high quality boards. Although the mill's financial results were impacted by the start-up of the new equipment, the quality of product is excellent and has been positively received by the market. The mill is expected to make a positive contribution to the company's results in the third quarter.

The company reduced its net debt during the quarter to $237.3 million or 28.1% of invested capital, leaving $145.4 million of available credit.

Commodity lumber prices have stabilized since mid-June although some ongoing volatility is expected as the U.S. housing recovery seeks traction throughout the remainder of this year. Business activity in China is expected to be reasonably stable in the near term as the market adjusts to tightening credit policies and recent changes in currency values. The Japanese economy has indicated signs of recovery, aided by government stimulus packages including a tax rebate program for new home buyers to counter the VAT increase.

Interfor will continue its disciplined approach to production, cost control, inventory management, and capital spending to help position the company to deliver above average returns on invested capital as conditions improve. At the same time, Interfor will remain alert to opportunities to position the company for long-term success.

Sales

Interfor realized $390.2 million of total sales, up 42.0% from $274.7 million in the second quarter of 2013, driven by the sale of 628 million board feet of lumber at an average price of $518 per mfbm. Lumber sales volume and average selling price increased 195 million board feet and 2.2%, respectively, over the same quarter of 2013.

The growth in lumber sales volume was primarily in the U.S. market, where sales increased by 156 million board feet or 59.7% over the second quarter of 2013. This growth is mostly attributable to three sawmills acquired in the U.S. Southeast since July 1, 2013, higher operating rates and the draw-down of lumber inventories.

The increase in the average selling price of lumber is primarily related to the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the Canadian dollar by 6.6% and higher prices realized in non-U.S. markets as compared to the first quarter of 2013, partially offset by an increased proportion of Southern Yellow Pine sales.

Log sales of $35.4 million represent an increase of $2.8 million or 8.6% compared to the same quarter of 2013. This sales growth is mostly related to a 14.3% increase in the average selling price on B.C. log sales, which accounted for 88.6% of log sales revenue in the quarter.

Sales of wood chips and other residual products increased to $25.8 million, up $8.4 million over the comparable quarter of 2013. This increase mainly reflects the 39.2% increase in lumber production from Q2'13.

Operations

Production costs increased by $102.5 million or 44.3% over the second quarter of 2013, explained primarily by the 45.0% increase in lumber sales volume.

Depreciation of plant and equipment was $14.0 million, up 49.0% from the second quarter of 2013. The majority of this increase is explained by the inclusion of depreciation on the three sawmills in the U.S. Southeast acquired since July 1, 2013, and higher operating rates.

Depletion and amortization of timber, roads and other was $7.0 million, up 11.7% from the comparable quarter of 2013. This increase is mostly related to amortization of a non-competition agreement associated with the acquisition of Tolleson Ilim Lumber Company ("Tolleson").

Net Earnings

The Company recorded net earnings of $34.9 million or $0.53 per share, higher compared to net earnings of $30.9 million or $0.55 per share in the first half of 2013. Excluding the impact of the restructuring and impairment charges associated with curtailment of the Beaver-Forks operation in Q2'14 and recognition of $19.3 million of previously unrecognized deferred tax assets related to U.S. operations in Q1'14, net earnings in H1'14 would have been $29.8 million and relatively in-line with H1'13.

The Company's quarterly financial trends are most impacted by seasonality, levels of lumber production, log costs, market prices for lumber and the US$/CAD$ foreign currency exchange rate.

Logging operations are seasonal due to a number of factors including weather, ground conditions and fire season closures. Generally, the Company's B.C. Coast logging division experiences higher production levels in the latter half of the first quarter, throughout the second and third quarters and in the first half of the fourth quarter. Logging activity in the B.C. Interior is generally higher in the first half of the first quarter, slows during spring break-up and increases in the third and fourth quarters. Sawmill operations are dependent on the availability of logs from our logging operations and our suppliers. In addition, the market demand for lumber and related products is generally lower in the winter due to reduced construction activity, which increases during the spring, summer and fall.

Steady recoveries in the U.S. housing market helped drive up domestic demand and pricing through the end of 2012. Building on the positive momentum of 2012, U.S. housing starts surged, supporting higher lumber prices and positive net earnings in the first quarter of 2013. Mid-way through the second quarter of 2013, supply outstripped demand, and lumber prices dropped, ending the quarter at levels close to those of early 2012. Late in the third quarter of 2013, lumber prices started to rise in response to demand from China and improving U.S. housing starts. The North American lumber market was affected by both supply and demand factors in the first half of 2014, with commodity lumber prices remaining at relatively strong levels. Three sawmills acquired on March 1, 2013, and one sawmill acquired on July 1, 2013, contributed to growth in production, sales and earnings from 2012. Production, sales and earnings have also benefited since the acquisition of two sawmills on March 14, 2014.

The volatility of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar also impacted results, given that historically over 75% of the Canadian operation's lumber sales are to the U.S. and export markets priced in U.S. dollars. A weaker Canadian dollar increases the lumber sales realizations in Canada, and increases net earnings of U.S. operations when converted to Canadian dollars.