PaperAge Magazine

Resolute Forest Products Third Quarter Results Up on Sales of Market Pulp, Wood Products

Resolute Forest Products Resolute's operating results were positively impacted by increases in sales of market pulp and wood products, where shipments and pricing improved compared to the previous quarter.

Nov. 2, 2017 - Resolute Forest Products Inc. (NYSE: RFP) (TSX: RFP) today reported net income for the quarter ended September 30, 2017, of $24 million, or $0.26 per share, compared to net income of $14 million, or $0.15 per share, in the same period in 2016. Sales were $885 million in the quarter, essentially unchanged from the third quarter of 2016. Excluding special items, the company reported net income of $31 million, or $0.34 per share, compared to net income, excluding special items, of $15 million, or $0.17 per share, in the third quarter of 2016.

"This quarter's solid performance builds on the momentum established earlier in the year," said Richard Garneau, president and chief executive officer. "Our results benefitted from continued strength in our market pulp and wood products segments as well as from substantial improvements in the cost position of our paper segments following capacity closures and restructuring of operations announced earlier this year. In tissue, our sales effort continues to progress, but our results were negatively impacted by Hurricane Irma."

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

Operating Income Variance Against Prior Period

Consolidated

The company recorded operating income of $48 million in the quarter, an improvement of $95 million compared to the second quarter of 2017, as adjusted EBITDA increased to $118 million from $83 million in the previous quarter.

The company's operating results were positively impacted by increases in sales of market pulp and wood products, where shipments and pricing improved compared to the previous quarter. Profitability was also supported by lower manufacturing costs and savings derived from the closure of a high cost machine in our specialty papers segment, resulting in operating margin improvements that offset volume declines.

The company incurred $21 million of closure costs, impairment and other related charges, and inventory write-downs in the third quarter linked primarily to the permanent closure of two paper machines at Calhoun (Tennessee). This compares favorably to the $65 million recorded in the second quarter.

Market Pulp

Operating income in the market pulp segment was $19 million, $3 million more than the second quarter. Realized prices continued to rise from the lows of 2016, reaching $650 per metric ton, an increase of $18 per metric ton, or 3%, when compared to the previous quarter. Shipments to third parties rose by 12,000 metric tons, largely resulting from reduced annual maintenance outages. The operating cost per unit (the "delivered cost") rose by $12 per metric ton, reaching $595 per metric ton. This was the result of the relative strengthening of the Canadian dollar and a lower contribution from cogeneration operations. EBITDA per unit was $78 per metric ton compared to $71 per metric ton in the previous quarter. Finished goods inventory rose by 6,000 metric tons.

Tissue

In our tissue segment, which includes only the former Atlas tissue operations in Florida, the operating loss increased by $2 million compared to the second quarter. While pricing remained essentially unchanged, the delivered cost increased by $160 per short ton, mostly as a result of facility damage and approximately 10 days of business interruption associated with Hurricane Irma. Overall shipments were largely unchanged, with inventories drawn down by 2,000 short tons.

Wood Products

The wood products segment recorded operating income of $64 million for the quarter, an improvement of $19 million compared to the previous quarter. With supply disruptions owing mostly to forest fires in British Columbia, shipments increased by 22 million board feet, reaching 531 million board feet for the quarter. The average transaction price rose by $27 per thousand board feet to $413. The delivered cost improved by $8 per thousand board feet, mostly a result of higher volumes. EBITDA for the segment was $73 million, a $21 million increase from the previous quarter, and equivalent to $137 per thousand board feet, compared to $102 in the second quarter. Finished goods inventory declined by 3 million board feet to 122 million board feet.

Newsprint

The newsprint segment incurred an operating loss of $6 million in the quarter, compared to a loss of $7 million in the second quarter. Pricing increased slightly to $511 per metric ton. Shipments fell by 9,000 metric tons, mostly due to downtime at Baie-Comeau (Quebec) and Augusta (Georgia). The delivered cost in the segment was largely unchanged compared to the previous quarter, as lower maintenance costs and higher contributions from cogeneration were mostly offset by the impacts of the strengthening Canadian dollar. EBITDA was unchanged at $10 million for the quarter, equivalent to $26 per metric ton. Finished goods inventory fell by 16,000 metric tons.

Specialty Papers

The specialty papers segment recorded operating income of $7 million during the third quarter, an improvement of $14 million from the previous quarter. The average transaction price rose by $8 per short ton. Despite continued declines in demand and the closure of a coated paper machine in Catawba (South Carolina) at the end of the second quarter, shipments of specialty papers fell by only 16,000 short tons in the third quarter. The segment's delivered cost decreased by $34 per short ton. This was mostly derived from the elimination of $11 million in cost associated with the restructuring at Catawba in the second quarter. EBITDA was $18 million in the quarter, equivalent to $54 per short ton, an improvement of $43 per short ton compared to the previous quarter. Finished goods inventory declined by 8% to 86,000 short tons.

Consolidated Quarterly Operating Income Variance Against Year-Ago Period

The company recorded operating income of $48 million for the third quarter, compared to operating income of $10 million for the same period in 2016. The difference is mostly a result of higher volumes and pricing in our market pulp and wood products segments, which benefited from favorable market dynamics when compared to the year-ago period, as well as improvements in operating costs, particularly in our paper segments.

Overall, pricing gains were $50 million, as $58 million from our wood products and pulp segments was slightly offset by reductions in specialty papers ($4 million), newsprint ($3 million) and tissue ($1 million). Combined volume growth in wood products and market pulp was equivalent to $7 million in the quarter while decreased volumes in newsprint, specialty papers and tissue, resulted in a negative variance of $13 million during this same period.

Our overall cost position, net of volume impacts, improved by $18 million compared to the third quarter of 2016 and is mostly attributable to reductions associated with capacity closures in our paper segments.

Corporate and Finance

The company invested $20 million on capital expenditures in the quarter. $7 million was spent on the Calhoun tissue project. We made countervailing duty deposits of $19 million in the third quarter which were recorded on our balance sheet, of which $14 million were attributable to softwood lumber and $5 million to supercalendered papers.

Despite higher net pension and OPEB contributions due to timing as well as a seasonal increase in working capital, which were $37 million and $28 million, respectively, the company repaid an additional $7 million on its revolving credit facilities. We repaid a further $30 million since the end of the third quarter. However, due mainly to additional letters of credit required in connection with trade disputes, total liquidity declined by $14 million and stood at $400 million at the end of September.

Outlook

Mr. Garneau added: "We have announced further price increases in our pulp and paper segments in the fourth quarter and anticipate continued gains from our restructuring measures, which should provide solid cash flow generation in the short-term. Although we continue to make progress in our tissue business, we do not believe that this segment will contribute to our results until the middle of 2018. For wood products, we believe that market fundamentals will remain favorable."

Resolute Forest Products is a global leader in the forest products industry with a diverse range of products, including market pulp, tissue, wood products, newsprint and specialty papers, which are marketed in over 70 countries. To learn more, please visit: www.resolutefp.com

SOURCE: Resolute Forest Products Inc.