Resolute Forest Products Reports Preliminary Second Quarter 2014 Results

"Costs and margins normalized this quarter after the disappointing weather-affected first quarter, delivering much stronger performances in each of our four segments." – Richard Garneau, President and CEO, Resolute.

July 31, 2014 - Resolute Forest Products Inc. (RFP) (RFP.TO) today reported net income (US $) for the quarter ended June 30, 2014, excluding special items, of $19 million, or $0.20 per share, up from net income, excluding special items, of $18 million, or $0.19 per share, in the second quarter of 2013. GAAP net loss was $2 million, or $0.02 per share, compared to a net loss of $43 million, or $0.45 per share, in the second quarter of 2013. Sales were $1.1 billion in the quarter, down $16 million from the second quarter of 2013.

"Costs and margins normalized this quarter after the disappointing weather-affected first quarter, delivering much stronger performances in each of our four segments," said Richard Garneau, president and chief executive officer. "We generated 50% of our adjusted EBITDA from our wood products and market pulp businesses in the last twelve months. Our competitive advantage rests on our cost-focused strategy and diversified asset base, giving us the tools to maximize earnings power in this challenging industry."

Non-GAAP financial measures, such as adjustments for special items and adjusted EBITDA, are explained and reconciled below.

CONSOLIDATED QUARTERLY OPERATING INCOME VARIANCE AGAINST YEAR-AGO PERIOD

The Company recorded an operating loss of $8 million in the second quarter, compared to operating income of $3 million in the year-ago period. Overall pricing was essentially unchanged in the quarter, as the 8% increase in market pulp prices was offset with lower average transaction prices in newsprint, specialty papers and wood products.

Newsprint shipments rose by 3% and wood products by 22%, while specialty papers shipments were 2% lower. The increase in lumber shipments reflects an increase to production capacity and better market demand.

Market pulp shipments were down by 15%, however, in part due to more internal consumption of hardwood kraft pulp and slowing North American demand, particularly softwood and recycled grades.

With lower start-up costs and pension and other postretirement benefit expenses, overall manufacturing costs continued to improve. The Company also benefitted from its electricity cogeneration assets and asset optimization initiatives, offset in part by an increase in overall fiber costs and in maintenance and repair costs.

The weaker Canadian dollar had a $22 million favorable effect on operating income.

The Company incurred $52 million of accelerated depreciation and other closure-related costs, most of which came from the permanent closure of an idled paper machine at its Catawba mill in South Carolina. Selling, general and administrative expenses were $3 million lower in the quarter, primarily because of a reduction in project costs and the weaker Canadian dollar.

SEGMENT OPERATING INCOME VARIANCE AGAINST PRIOR QUARTER

Newsprint

At $18 million in the second quarter, newsprint generated $33 million more operating income compared to the first quarter. Shipments rose by 6%, or 32,000 metric tons, as the Company recovered from weather-related production disruptions and mechanical failures experienced in the first quarter, despite fiber availability limitations at certain mills in Québec. Export shipments represented 40% of total newsprint volume, compared to 44% in all of 2013. Average transaction price was essentially unchanged but the realized margin rose significantly due to a 9% drop in operating cost per unit (the "delivered cost"), to $568 per metric ton. The change in the delivered cost is due to the influence of the severe winter in the first quarter and lower, non-weather related maintenance costs in the second quarter. Finished goods inventory rose by 14%.

Specialty Papers

Specialty papers generated an operating loss of $3 million in the quarter, compared to a loss of $24 million in the previous quarter. While the overall average transaction price was unchanged, higher realized pricing for white papers was offset by the effect of lower pricing for coated mechanical grades and, to a lesser degree, supercalender grades. Volume rose by 8% overall, led mostly by stronger shipments of white papers but also including improvements in other grades. The increase reflects a seasonal pick-up in catalogue and retail end-uses from first quarter lows as well as better production consistency following the weather-related production disruptions and mechanical failures experienced in the first quarter. The delivered costs normalized to seasonally-consistent levels, falling by 7%. There was a 15% increase in finished goods inventory.

Market Pulp

Operating income in the market pulp segment rose by $16 million in the second quarter, to $24 million. Better realized pricing, strongest in fluff pulp grades but also meaningful in softwood and recycled grades, led to an overall 4% increase in average transaction price. Shipments did not improve as expected following the effects of weather-related production disruptions and distribution constraints in the first quarter. This reflects greater internal consumption of hardwood kraft pulp and softening North American demand, particularly softwood and recycled grades. The delivered cost fell by 3%, to $652 per metric ton, normalizing to seasonally-consistent levels following the difficulties in the first quarter. Finished goods inventory rose by 15,000 metric tons, or 15%.

Wood Products

Compared to the first quarter, operating income in the wood products segment rose by $3 million, to $15 million. The average transaction price was unchanged, reflecting the largely offsetting effect of higher market prices for stud lumber grades and lower market prices for random length lumber grades. Despite continued distribution constraints for lack of carrier availability carried over from the first quarter, shipments were 19% higher, which in turn cut finished goods inventory by 13% from the high levels reached in the first quarter. The delivered cost rose by 1% in the quarter.

Outlook

Mr. Garneau added: "Our conscious effort to reduce lumber inventory in the second quarter helped improve shipments in this segment. With inventories closer to normal levels, we expect shipments to normalize in the third quarter. Despite the ongoing slow recovery in U.S. housing starts, prices for eastern grades held up in July. With our scale, financial strength and lower-cost operating platform, we've positioned ourselves as a long-term, reliable supplier for our customers, and our newsprint business has responded well, especially in the domestic market. But we're not expecting much improvement in export markets for the remainder of the year, based on lower international demand. As some major hardwood pulp capacity increases are coming online, the balance of the year remains somewhat uncertain for pulp. Pricing in specialty papers is also more uncertain because of the pressure of lower operating rates in coated papers and supercalender grades, although we do expect to see seasonal improvement in shipment volumes."

Resolute Forest Products is a global leader in the forest products industry with a diverse range of products, including newsprint, commercial printing papers, market pulp and wood products. The Company owns or operates over 40 pulp and paper mills and wood products facilities in the United States, Canada and South Korea, and power generation assets in Canada. For additional information, visit: www.resolutefp.com

SOURCE: Resolute Forest Products Inc.