Tembec posts positive results
July 31, 2014, Montreal - Tembec profits were up in the second quarter; consolidated sales for the three-month period ended June 28, 2014, were $404 million, as compared to $399 million in the same quarter a year ago. The Company generated net earnings of $30 million or $0.30 per share in the June 2014 quarter compared to a net loss of $7 million or $0.07 per share in the June 2013 quarter. The June 2014 results include a gain of $14 million related to the sale of land. Operating earnings before depreciation, amortization and other items (adjusted EBITDA) was $30 million for the three-month period ended June 28, 2014, as compared to adjusted EBITDA of $30 million a year ago and adjusted EBITDA of $18 million in the prior quarter.
Business Segment Results
The Specialty Cellulose Pulp segment generated adjusted EBITDA of $19 million on sales of $126 million for the quarter ended June 2014, compared to adjusted EBITDA of $18 million on sales of $128 million in the prior quarter. Demand for specialty grades was flat while US and euro prices were relatively unchanged quarter-over-quarter. The prior quarter sales included a $2 million favourable adjustment for volume penalties paid by customers relating to the calendar 2013 period. Currency was unfavourable during the quarter as the Canadian dollar strengthened by 1.1% versus the US dollar and the euro. Overall, Canadian dollar equivalent pricing for specialty grades declined by $77 per tonne. US dollar prices for viscose grades also declined. Combined with the unfavourable currency effect, prices declined by $51 per tonne. The viscose market remains oversupplied and prices are relatively low. Overall, pricing reduced adjusted EBITDA by $4 million. Shipments were equal to 80% of capacity as compared to 81% in the prior quarter. Costs declined by $3 million due to the reversal of net realizable value write-downs as the Temiscaming mill shipped more viscose grade pulp than it had produced. Higher profitability in the chemicals business increased adjusted EBITDA by a further $2 million. The Specialty Cellulose Pulp segment generated operating earnings of $15 million, unchanged from the prior quarter.
The Forest Products segment generated adjusted EBITDA of $5 million on sales of $108 million for the quarter ended June 2014, compared to adjusted EBITDA of $3 million on sales of $112 million in the prior quarter. Lumber shipments were equal to 84% of capacity versus 83% in the prior quarter. During the quarter, the random length lumber reference price declined by US $24 per mbf while the reference price for stud lumber increased by US $11 per mbf. The gap between the two grades narrowed as expected. Currency was unfavourable as the Canadian dollar averaged US $0.917, a 1.1% increase from US $0.907 in the prior quarter. The net effect decreased sales and adjusted EBITDA by $1 million or $6 per mbf. Costs decreased by $4 million. The spring and summer months are also seasonally lower operating cost periods. The Forest Products segment generated operating earnings of $4 million, compared to operating earnings of $1 million in the prior quarter.
BC Land Sales Initiative
The Company continued with its BC Land Sales Initiative. The objective is to realize up to $70 million in gross proceeds by December 2014. During the June 2014 quarter, the Company completed three land sales for proceeds of $16 million, bringing total sales to date to $39 million. The Company also has an agreement to sell additional parcels for $20 million. The transaction is conditional on the purchaser obtaining adequate financing. There can be no assurance that the transaction will be consummated or that the Company will attain its stated objective.
Temiscaming Cogen Project Update
The Company had previously indicated that the total construction cost of the project would be approximately $235 million. Updated projections now indicate that approximately $255 million will be required to complete the project. The overrun is largely due to higher labour costs. The initial estimate contemplated total labour man-hours of 810,000. To the end of June 2014, labour man-hours had reached 775,000 and projections indicate a further 152,000 man-hours will be required to complete the construction work, for a projected total of 927,000 man-hours.
As a significant portion of the additional man-hours relate to higher cost specialized trades, the fully-loaded cost per man-hour is forecasted to be 7% higher than originally planned. The boiler erection is essentially completed and the remaining work will focus on piping, insulation and electrical work. The commissioning of several ancillary systems has begun and will accelerate as the summer progresses. The turbine was originally scheduled to produce contract power by mid-October 2014. This is now expected to occur in late-November 2014, a delay of approximately five weeks.
Overall, the June 2014 quarterly results were better than anticipated. After experiencing relatively harsh winter conditions in the March 2014 quarter, all four business segments benefited from higher productivity and lower costs. This more than offset the negative effect of a stronger Canadian dollar and lower selling prices. The Specialty Cellulose segment results improved by $1 million due to lower costs at both pulp mills. The decline in specialty pulp prices was expected as the prior quarter had benefited from customer minimum volume penalties. The current quarter reflected the full impact of the lower contract prices that came into effect in January 2014. Prices for viscose grade also dropped in the most recent quarter. This market remains oversupplied and US $ prices are relatively low. Market conditions should remain at this level for the remainder of the calendar year.
The improved results in the Forest Products segment were also driven by lower costs as the spring and summer months are normally lower cost periods for the sawmills. Stud lumber prices increased, closing the gap with random lumber as the latter declined. We anticipate similar results in the coming quarter.
The Paper Pulp segment results saw a small improvement in profitability due to lower costs. The segment was able to make up for the weather related shortfall in shipments from the prior quarter. The new South American hardwood paper pulp capacity is impacting prices and we anticipate marginal profitability from this segment until the market absorbs this new capacity.
The Paper segment rebounded well from what had been a very challenging March quarter, which was impacted by high prices for natural gas and electricity. The coated bleached board market is stable, but the export market for newsprint, on which North American producers are placing greater reliance, is under pressure.
The Company is looking forward to completing the construction of the Temiscaming, QC, specialty cellulose Cogen project in the coming quarter. While the total estimated cost has increased, the project remains a critical element that will materially improve the mill's cost structure and margins. The Company is placing significant emphasis on training and commissioning in order to ensure a successful start-up of the boiler and turbine. The Company is also looking to complete the BC Land Sales Initiative. To date, $39 million has been realized and the Company will be focused on generating additional land sales in order to reach its $70 million objective.
July 31, 2014 By CNW Telbec
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