July 21, 2009 / 9:27 PM / in 8 years

UPDATE 1-West Fraser posts loss, pessimistic on prices

* C$39 million net loss, C$75 million operating loss

* Says conserving cash until clear signs of recovery.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, July 21 (Reuters) - Tough lumber and pulp markets pushed West Fraser Timber Co Ltd (WFT.TO), North America’s largest softwood lumber producer, into quarterly net loss on Tuesday despite an exchange gain on debt and a tax recovery.

In reporting its results the Canadian company cautioned that while there have been some indications of a recovery in the housing market, it still thinks it will take a general economic rebound for lumber prices to rebound.

West Fraser lost C$39 million ($35.5 million), or 91 Canadian cents a share, in the second quarter. That compared with a net profit of C$3 million, or 8 Canadian cents a share, in the year-before quarter.

The company’s operating loss was C$75 million, compared with an operating profit of C$5 million a year earlier. Its net results included a C$30 million foreign exchange gain on debt and C$18 million recovery on income taxes.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters Estimates had, on average, expected a net loss of C$1.28 per share, with individual predictions ranging from a loss of 75 Canadian cents a share to a loss of C$1.69 a share.

West Fraser, which has lumber mills in Western Canada and the southern United States, as well as pulp and paper operations in Canada, said sales in the quarter were C$667 million, down from C$892 million a year earlier.

“Our results reflect the continuing very poor economic environment that has significantly reduced home construction in North America and reduced the demand for our pulp and paper products,” Chief Executive Hank Ketcham said.

Ketcham said the company will concentrate on conserving cash until “clear signs of recovery are evident”. West Fraser cut its dividend during the quarter.

The financial results were released after a second market session in which West Fraser’s share price has jumped sharply, despite what one analyst said was a lack of news to push it up. The stock closed at C$24.39, up 11.4 percent, on Tuesday.

$1=$1.10 Canadian Reporting by Allan Dowd, Editing by Peter Galloway

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