Clearwater Paper made $21.4 million in its third quarter in an environment where the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect its consumer tissue and paperboard divisions.
That performance for July, August and September, reported in a Tuesday news release, compares with a $11 million loss for the same time last year. As of Sept. 30, Clearwater Paper had earned $54.5 million this year, compared with a loss of $7.6 million for the first nine months of 2019.
“Clearwater Paper had another outstanding quarter, driven by strength in our tissue business, stability in paperboard and excellent operational execution,” said Clearwater PaperPresident and CEO Arsen Kitch in a conference call Tuesday for stock market analysts.
Third quarter 2020 net sales were $248 million for consumer products and $209 million for paperboard.
“Our tissue business drove results with both higher sales and production volumes to meet elevated demand,” Kitch said. “Lower input costs, particularly in pulp, were also a tailwind on a year-over-year basis.”
The company is one of Lewiston’s largest employers, manufacturing toilet paper, paper napkins, paper towels and facial tissue as well as paperboard that’s used in packaging and disposable dishware.
Its private label tissue segment has started to return to normal after demand skyrocketed early in the pandemic when consumers, worried about shortages of necessities, emptied shelves at retailers.
Clearwater Paper has replenished inventories throughout its supply chain and is seeing stock levels improve, Kitch said.
“In the third quarter, we achieved strong results due to continued elevated demand and production in tissue, although at lower levels than the earlier phases of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said in a news release about Clearwater Paper’s earnings.
Markets are solid for paperboard too, with Kitch attributing some of that ongoing strength to the fact that only one-third is used in discretionary products that can be more vulnerable when consumers have less money to spend.
“Our (paperboard) business, including customer demand, has been stable (despite) economic uncertainty,” Kitch said. “Our current sales backlogs are consistent with previous years.”
Company executives are watching a number of trends, such as demand for paper towels, tracking ahead of other types of products in the tissue category, while demand for facial tissue is lagging, Kitch said.
“In addition, to meet peak demand during the pandemic, we believe some of our (wholesale) customers made short-term commitments to alternative suppliers, … including imported products,” he said. “As a result, we believe that these customers may have greater-than-normal inventory levels in several categories that they’re now working through.”
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