April 25, 2008 / 10:53 PM / in 10 years

Lumber woes widen West Fraser's quarterly loss

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) West Fraser Timber Co Ltd’s WFT.TO loss widened in the first quarter, as the sagging U.S. housing market and strong Canadian dollar continued to take their toll on lumber producers.

The company said on Friday it had a net loss of C$69 million ($68 million), or C$1.60 per share, in the quarter. That compared with a loss of C$5 million, or 12 Canadian cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

The latest loss was partly offset by a recovery on income taxes. West Fraser’s operating loss in the quarter was C$103 million, up from C$21 million.

Sales were C$772 million, down from C$759 million.

“The length of this downturn is unclear but it is very severe,” Chief Executive Hank Ketcham said in a statement, which warned that an improvement in market conditions was not likely until 2009.

The company, Canada’s largest producer of softwood construction lumber, said there was some hope that mill shutdowns in the industry could raise prices, but it remained to be seen how much that would help.

($1=$1.01 Canadian)

Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson

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