February 1, 2008 / 1:04 PM / in 10 years

Norbord's loss worsens as N.A. housing slows

TORONTO (Reuters) - Norbord Inc NBD.TO reported a wider fourth-quarter loss on Friday, as a slowing North American housing market and sharply lower prices hobbled the Canadian timber products firm.

The North American operations of Norbord, which makes construction materials such as plywood and oriented strand board (OSB), took 118 days of OSB downtime in the quarter as U.S. housing starts sputtered amid a slowing U.S. economy.

The loss was $13 million, or 9 cents per share in the quarter, down from a loss of $1 million, or 1 cent per share a year earlier.

A relatively healthy European housing market partly offset weakness in North America, boosting sales 1.5 percent to $263 million.

“In North America, weak demand stemming from sharply lower housing starts led to poor product prices and widespread curtailments throughout the wood products industry,” Barrie Shineton, Norbord’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The price of OSB, the company’s key product, dipped in all regions of the United States, where the subprime mortgage housing market has been battered.

The company has 15 plants in the United States, Europe and Canada, and annual OSB capacity of 5.0 billion square feet.

It expects demand and pricing for OSB to remain weak in the near term in North America. In the long term, however, it said fundamentals remain strong for OSB.

Toronto-based Norbord declared a quarterly dividend of 10 Canadian cents per share, payable in March.

It also appointed Robin Lampard senior vice-president and chief financial officer, effective February 15. Lampard will replace John Tremayne.

($1=$1.00 Canadian)

Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Scott Anderson

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