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Canfor Pulp Products reports Q3 loss amid weak global pulp market conditions

October 24, 2019  By Canfor Pulp Products

Canfor Pulp Products has reported its third-quarter 2019 results, citing an operating loss of $44 million and net loss of $32 million, or $0.50 per share.

Reflecting weak global pulp market conditions, significant market-related downtime and fibre supply disruptions from British Columbia Interior sawmill curtailments, the company’s operating loss of $44 million for the third quarter of 2019 was down $62.4 million from the operating income of $18.4 million reported for second quarter of 2019.

Northern bleached softwood kraft (NBSK) pulp and bleached chemi-thermomechanical pulp (BCTMP) prices saw significant declines through the quarter, driven by weak global softwood pulp demand in combination with elevated global pulp inventory levels.


In response to the deteriorating pulp market conditions and fibre supply disruptions, the company took phased summer curtailments at its Intercontinental, Northwood and Prince George NBSK pulp mills in Prince George, BC, as well as at its BCTMP mill in Taylor, BC. Combined, the summer curtailments reduced pulp production in the current quarter by 75,000 tonnes of NSBK pulp and 60,000 tonnes of BCTMP.

Global pulp markets weakened for a third straight quarter with the combination of tepid demand and inventory oversupply, particularly in China and Europe, significantly weighing on global pulp prices. During the current quarter, the US-dollar NBSK pulp list price to China declined to its lowest level in over 10 years, averaging US$585 per tonne, down US$68 per tonne, or 10 per cent, from the previous quarter. Prices to other global regions, including North America and Europe, also experienced similar decreases in the current quarter. As a result of weakening pulp market conditions and pricing, average NBSK pulp and BCTMP unit sales realizations were down significantly compared to the second quarter of 2019.

Energy revenues increased in the current quarter as improved power generation, driven by Northwood’s new turbo generator condensing turbine, and higher energy prices, more than offset the decrease in operating days associated with the aforementioned downtime.

Pulp production was 174,000 tonnes, down 126,000 tonnes, or 42 per cent, from the previous quarter, largely reflecting the quarter-over-quarter impact of downtime, which, in the current quarter, principally related to the aforementioned production curtailments at all of the company’s pulp mills. The completion of a scheduled maintenance outage at the company’s Prince George pulp mill in the current quarter further reduced pulp production by 4,000 tonnes. In the second quarter of 2019, the company completed scheduled maintenance outages at the Intercontinental NBSK pulp and Taylor BCTMP mills, which reduced pulp production by 11,000 tonnes and 6,000 tonnes, respectively.

Pulp shipments were 213,000 tonnes, down 75,000 tonnes, or 26 per cent, from the previous quarter reflecting the decrease in pulp production, offset in part by a drawdown of inventory in the current quarter.

Pulp unit manufacturing costs were significantly higher than the previous quarter, principally reflecting reduced production. Fibre costs showed a modest decline, with lower market-based prices for sawmill residual chips (linked to Canadian dollar NBSK pulp sales realizations) offsetting increased seasonal pricing adjustments and a higher proportion of available higher-cost whole log chips.

Operating income in the company’s paper segment was $3.9 million, down $4.2 million from the second quarter of 2019, as declining paper unit sales realizations and reduced paper production, as a result of scheduled maintenance downtime, more than offset lower slush pulp costs (linked to falling Canadian dollar NBSK pulp market prices).

Looking forward, global softwood kraft pulp markets are projected to show signs of a modest recovery in the fourth quarter of 2019 with consumers replenishing inventories following the seasonally slower summer months. It is anticipated that global pulp pricing will slowly improve through the balance of 2019 and into 2020 as global inventories move towards a more balanced range.

Given the impacts of recently announced sawmill curtailments and closures in the BC Interior, fibre costs are projected to remain under pressure given the limited supply of incremental pulp logs. Results in the fourth quarter of 2019 will include a one-week curtailment at Canfor’s Prince George NBSK pulp mill and paper machine at the beginning of October, a continuation from the third quarter.

Bleached kraft paper demand is anticipated to remain relatively weak through the balance of the year, with prices projected to remain under pressure in the fourth quarter before stabilizing in 2020.

“This was an extremely difficult quarter for our pulp business and our employees, as we managed challenging pulp market conditions and made difficult operating decisions due to the reduced fibre supply in BC driven by the industry-wide sawmill curtailments,” says Don Kayne, chief executive officer. “As a result of the downtime taken during the third quarter, however, we look to be well placed to run without further disruption through the balance of the year and into 2020, when we anticipate market conditions and prices to improve.”

On October 23, 2019, the board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.0625 per share, payable on November 12, 2019, to the shareholders of record on November 5, 2019.

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