PaperAge Magazine

Cascades Announces Strong First Quarter 2018 Results

Mario Plourde - Cascades "Year-over-year, first quarter results were supported by a strong performance from our European boxboard subsidiary Reno de Medici, driven by strong market conditions, selling price improvement and lower raw material costs." – Mario Plourde, President and CEO, Cascades.

May 10, 2018 - Cascades Inc. (TSX: CAS) reports its unaudited financial results for the three-month period ended March 31, 2018.

Mario Plourde, President and Chief Executive Officer, commented: “Our consolidated first quarter performance improved both year-over-year and sequentially in terms of sales levels, shipments and operating income. Changes in raw material prices were positive on a consolidated basis both sequentially and year-over-year, while higher transportation costs negatively impacted profitability in our North American operations.

“Year-over-year, first quarter results were supported by a strong performance from our European boxboard subsidiary Reno de Medici, driven by strong market conditions, selling price improvement and lower raw material costs. The containerboard packaging division similarly generated stronger results, reflecting the April 2017 consolidation of the Greenpac Mill, strong industry fundamentals and higher average realized selling prices. As disclosed in early March, first quarter production levels in this segment were impacted by unplanned downtime at several mills at the beginning of the year, which resulted in a production shortfall of 15,000 short tons during the period. These production and mechanical issues were resolved before the end of the quarter.

“Results in the specialty products segment were below last year due to the lower recycled material prices, most notably OCC, which reduced sales in the recovery sub-segment.

“Finally, the tissue papers division increased shipments by 7% year-over-year within the ongoing context of challenging market conditions and market related downtime taken at the beginning of the year. Results in this segment, however, were impacted by lower average selling prices driven by increased competitiveness in several markets, higher raw material prices, and negative operating margin related to the Oregon converting facility that was started in the second quarter of 2017.

“On a sequential basis, consolidated first quarter results reflected improvements in capacity utilization, sales, and operating income. This was largely driven by a strong performance from the European boxboard division and was supported by a slight progress in tissue. Although production levels in containerboard reflected seasonally softer volumes and the downtime as described above, this division generated improvements in operating income and adjusted OIBD, reflecting higher realized average selling prices and lower raw material costs. Conversely, results from the specialty products segment decreased, due primarily to the impact of lower recycled paper pricing on the performance of its recovery activities.

“On the strategic front, the construction of our new containerboard converting facility in NJ progressed on time and on budget, with start-up scheduled for the end of May. The containerboard division finalized the sale of the NY converting facility for US$72 million in January, and the acquisition of the 66.67% interest in the Italian boxboard processing company PAC Service S.p.A, was concluded by the European boxboard division at the beginning of the year. At the end of the first quarter, the leverage ratio stood at 3.6x1, unchanged from the end of 2017."

1 Pro-forma basis to include 2017 and 2018 business combinations on a LTM basis.

Analysis of results for the three-month period ended March 31, 2018 (compared to the same period last year)

Sales of $1,098 million increased by $92 million or 9% compared to the same period last year. This was driven by a 22% increase in the containerboard division, reflecting the Greenpac consolidation and higher average realized sales prices during the period, and a 17% sales increase in the European boxboard segment following implemented price increases and the January 2018 acquisition of PAC Service. These benefits were partially offset by lower sales in recovery activities attributable to the significant year-over-year decrease in raw material prices. Sales generated by the tissue segment were essentially unchanged compared to prior year levels, as the beneficial impact of higher volumes was offset by a less favourable product mix and weaker Canadian dollar - US dollar exchange rate.

First quarter operating income stood at $112 million, a notable improvement from the $31 million generated last year. This increase was largely driven by improvements in the containerboard segment, where results benefited from the consolidation of Greenpac, a higher average selling price and lower raw material costs. First quarter performance similarly reflected a higher contribution from the European boxboard segment, driven by strong industry fundamentals and lower raw material costs. Partially offsetting these benefits was a lower contribution from the specialty products division attributable to the impact of lower raw material prices on the performance of the recovery sub-segment, and a weaker tissue performance reflecting the more challenging marketplace and rising virgin pulp price. Higher amortization and depreciation expense as a result of business combinations and the Scappoose facility start-up also negatively impacted operating income compared to the prior year period. On an adjusted basis1, first quarter operating income stood at $50 million, versus $28 million in the prior year.

The specific items, before income taxes, that impacted our first quarter 2018 operating income and/or net earnings were:

  • a $4 million unrealized loss on financial instruments (operating income and net earnings).
  • a $66 million gain related to the sale of the Maspeth, NY containerboard converting facility (operating income and net earnings).
  • a $5 million gain on fair-value revaluation of investment related to the European boxboard acquisition of PAC Service (net earnings).
  • a $1 million foreign exchange gain on long-term debt and financial instruments (net earnings).

The Corporation generated net earnings of $61 million, or $0.65 per common share in the first quarter of 2018, versus net earnings of $161 million, or $1.70 per common share in the comparable period of 2017. On an adjusted basis1, net earnings were $12 million, or $0.13 per common share, during the first three months of 2018, compared to net earnings of $12 million or $0.13 per common share in the same period of 2017.

1For further details, please refer to the "Supplemental Information on non-IFRS Measures" section.

Near-Term and Strategic Outlook

Discussing the outlook for Cascades, Mr. Plourde commented: "Our near term outlook is positive. The second quarter is seasonally favourable for all of our business segments, and we would expect sales levels to reflect as much. In the case of our containerboard segment, strong industry demand, lower raw material costs, and the gradual implementation of the announced price increases should provide significant support for performance in the coming months.

"Conversely, we expect profitability levels in our tissue paper division to remain under pressure as a result of the heightened competitive marketplace and rising raw material costs. While external factors remain challenging in this segment, we remain focused on managing inventory, growing sales levels in our targeted markets, incorporating lower cost materials in our production processes when possible, and increasing sales levels in our Oregon tissue converting facility where we continue to make positive and measurable progress.

"In Europe, underlying industry fundamentals suggest continued strength, raw material prices continue to be favourable, and both order backlog and order intake levels remain healthy. Operationally, we will concentrate on managing raw material costs and countering the trend of increasing transportation costs through optimization of our transport strategies.

“Looking to the remainder of 2018, we are focused internally on the optimization of our new business platform, and monetizing the efficiency, productivity and cost-saving initiatives that have been implemented through the centralization of our administrative processes. At the corporate level, attention will be centered on the smooth and successful execution of the company's planned 2018 investment program focused on improving our tissue platform, reinforcing our operational efficiency and productivity with a view to enhancing profitability and maximizing cash flow generation, and maintaining our strategic capital allocation commitment to reduce leverage."

Dividend on common shares and normal course issuer bid

The Board of Directors of Cascades declared a quarterly dividend of $0.04 per common share to be paid on June 6, 2018, to shareholders of record at the close of business on May 23, 2018. This dividend is an "eligible dividend" as per the Income Tax Act (R.C.S. (1985), Canada). During the first quarter of 2018, Cascades purchased 435,580 common shares for cancellation at a weighted average price of $14.20.

Cascades' full first quarter 2018 report can be found on the company's website: www.cascades.com.

Founded in 1964, Cascades produces, converts and markets packaging and tissue products that are composed mainly of recycled fibres. To learn more, please visit: www.cascades.com.

SOURCE: Cascades, Inc.