Resolute Forest Products Inc. is reporting stronger results in its latest quarter on gains in its pulp and paper sectors from improved pricing and the idling of a U.S. mill.
The company reported net income for the quarter ended March 31 of $210 million, or $2.68 per diluted share, compared to net income of $87 million, or $1.06 per diluted share, in the same period in 2021. Sales were $945 million in the quarter, an increase of $72 million from the year-ago period.
Excluding special items, the company reported net income of $177 million, or $2.26 per diluted share, compared to net income of $119 million, or $1.45 per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2021.
“We further strengthened the balance sheet with significant cash generation and improved the competitiveness of our business with two tuck-in acquisitions,” said Remi G. Lalonde, president and chief executive officer. “Our earnings and cash position reflect favorable pricing momentum in all of our segments, but the transportation network improvements were slower than expected, which led to lower sales volume and higher inventory levels. With our strong balance sheet and liquidity well over $1 billion, we benefit from enhanced flexibility to generate long-term value for shareholders and to drive sustainable economic activity in the communities where we operate.”
The company reported operating income of $235 million in the quarter, compared to an operating loss of $101 million in the fourth quarter. The improvement reflects higher selling prices in all segments ($206 million) and the net favorable impact of the indefinite idling of pulp and paper operations at the Calhoun (Tennessee) mill ($7 million). This was partially offset by lower shipments as a result of logistics constraints ($29 million), as well as higher fiber ($25 million) and freight expenses ($8 million).
Resolute recorded lower selling, general and administrative expenses ($7 million), mainly due to lower share-based compensation expenses in the quarter. The prior quarter results were unfavorably affected by charges related to the indefinite idling of pulp and paper operations at the Calhoun mill ($171 million).
Segment Operating Income Variance
- Market Pulp
The market pulp segment recorded operating income of $22 million in the first quarter, $3 million higher than in the prior quarter. The average transaction price increased by $9 per metric ton, or 1%, and the delivered cost fell by $8 per metric ton. Shipments were 28,000 metric tons lower, due to the capacity curtailment at the Calhoun mill and logistics constraints, which resulted in an increase in finished goods inventory of 23,000 metric tons. EBITDA in the segment improved by $1 million, to $26 million.
The tissue segment incurred an operating loss of $9 million in the quarter, compared to an operating loss of $6 million in the fourth quarter. The average transaction price increased by $47 per short ton, or 2%, due to better product mix, and shipments rose by 1,000 short tons.
The delivered cost increased by $141 per short ton, or 7%, mostly due to higher pulp prices, including the loss of pulp integration with the pulp capacity curtailment at the Calhoun mill. Finished goods inventory was unchanged at 6,000 short tons. EBITDA in the segment fell by $3 million, to negative $4 million.
“The underlying fundamentals for building materials remain positive, but we are mindful of inflationary pressure and rising interest rates, which could affect pricing and margins. With our network of high-quality pulp and paper assets and structural advantages, such as fiber integration and embedded power generation, we are well-positioned to grow margins in a rising price environment. We continue to work hard to adapt to challenges in the transportation network, and we expect to gradually normalize inventory levels in the second half of the year,” concluded Lalonde.