* Q1 EPS from cont ops $0.15, matching est.
* Rev up 31 pct to $177.2 mln
* Says log price up but not completely recovered
* Sees wood log prices recovering by early 2010
* Shares down more than 6 pct (Adds conf call details, analyst comment, updates share movement)
By Ashutosh Joshi
May 11 (Reuters) - Canada’s Sino-Forest Corp TRE.TO reported a higher quarterly profit in line with analysts’ expectations, but said log prices have yet to completely recover from last year’s slump.
Sino-Forest, which owns and operates significant plantations in China, said log prices had rebounded 5 percent to 10 percent after a nearly 15 percent drop last year, and sees prices rebounding only by early 2010.
Shares of the company fell 6.7 percent to C$11.97 in afternoon trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Current quarter sales were boosted by a 25 percent growth in plantation fibre sales which grew to $128.0 million, mainly due to the increased volume of fibre sold.
With fibre prices softening late in the fourth quarter and early in the first quarter, Sino-Forest said it was taking advantage of the weaker fibre market by acquiring trees at a price lower than its long-term result agreement.
“We are seeing a short window of opportunity whereby prices haven’t totally recovered from their drop last year and access to capital is not available to some other fibre buyers,” Chief Executive Allen Chan said during the conference call.
Sino-Forest said it purchased 75,977 hectares of plantations during the quarter for nearly $245.6 million.
Sino-Forest had cash and cash equivalents of 367.0 million and long term debt of $705 million during the quarter and said it has no significant debt maturity until 2011.
The company said it benefited from China’s economic stimulus that increased government spending on railway, road infrastructure and public housing.
“My sense is they will benefit greater in the second half of the year than the first round of the stimulus package,” said analyst Brian Topp of Maison Placements.
The company posted net income of $23.0 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with $14.5 million, or 8 cents a share, a year ago.
The company earned 15 cents a share from continuing operations, matching analysts’ average expectations.
Revenue rose 31 percent to $177.2 million, topping analysts’ average forecast of $161.8 million.
Sino-Forest said it expects 2009 capital expenditure of about $700 million for plantation acquisitions, replanting and maintenance, and about $30 million for the development of manufacturing facilities. (Reporting by Ashutosh Joshi in Bangalore; Editing by Anne Pallivathuckal and Vikram S Subhedar)