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Mercer International shares year-end and Q4 results for 2021


February 28, 2022
By P&PC Staff/Mercer International

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Mercer International reported its fourth quarter and year-end results for 2021.

The company’s operating EBITDA increased to $164.9 million from $49.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 and from $148.1 million in the third quarter of 2021.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, net income was $74.5 million (or $1.13 per basic share and $1.12 per diluted share) compared to a net loss of $13 million (or $0.20 per share) in the fourth quarter of 2020 and net income of $69.1 million (or $1.05 per basic share and $1.04 per diluted share) in the third quarter of 2021.

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In 2021, operating EBITDA increased to $478.8 million from $192.7 million in 2020. In 2021, net income was a record $171.0 million (or $2.59 per basic share and $2.58 per diluted share) compared to a net loss of $17.2 million (or $0.26 per share) in 2020.

Mercer’s CEO David Gandossi shared the following:

“I am pleased with our record fourth quarter operating results which were driven by strong sales volumes and steady pulp and lumber pricing and by materially higher energy prices in Germany for our surplus green energy sales. We also benefitted from the settlement of our business interruption insurance claim associated with the downtime taken in 2021 to rebuild our Peace River mill’s recovery boiler. Our annual operating EBITDA also set a new benchmark which significantly surpasses our prior high and highlights the cash generating power of our world class assets.

Overall, our fourth quarter pulp results were comparable to the trailing third quarter other than the recording of business interruption insurance proceeds of $31.9 million in the current quarter. In the current quarter, overall pulp pricing was slightly weaker than the prior quarter. A price decline in China in the fourth quarter began to reverse late in the quarter due to supply issues primarily driven by global logistical slowdowns. Such logistical issues also caused 35,000 tonnes of pulp from our Canadian operations to Asia being delayed and the revenue associated with this shipment will be reflected in the first quarter of 2022. As of December 31, 2021, third party industry quoted NBSK list prices were approximately $1,260 per ADMT in Europe and net prices were approximately $760 per ADMT in China.

We are seeing some impacts from the current global logistics bottleneck primarily with respect to North American rail traffic where pandemic related slowdowns and extreme weather have made rail service inconsistent. This resulted in periodic slowdowns of our Canadian pulp mills during the fourth quarter and caused us to use additional trucking which is less efficient and more expensive. We are currently optimistic that such logistics issues will be resolved over the coming months.

Looking ahead to the first quarter of 2022, we currently expect relatively strong NBSK markets globally. Improving sentiment and demand for pulp and paper along with supply interruptions in Canada and Scandinavia are supportive of a positive pricing outlook. For hardwood pulp, while longer term new incremental supply may lead to pricing pressure, in the first quarter of 2022, we currently expect hardwood prices to remain steady or improve modestly. In January 2022, the turbine at our Rosenthal mill came back on-line which, coupled with currently high European energy prices, should increase our surplus energy sales in the first quarter of 2022.

In 2022, we will continue our strategy of adding shareholder value through the implementation of capital projects designed to deliver high returns and help us achieve our ESG objectives. In 2022, these will include new woodroom projects at our Canadian pulp mills which are designed to reduce our GHG emissions, reduce wood waste and lower our fiber costs. Currently we expect our 2022 capital expenditures will be approximately $175 to $200 million. While our capital spending will be higher in 2022, we are forecasting less overall scheduled maintenance downtime at pulp mills compared to 2021.

Finally, while the global roll-out of vaccines is ongoing and results to date are encouraging, COVID-19 infections and health risks, including from variants and additional “waves” remain. Consequently, we will maintain our measures and procedures put in place to protect our people and allow us to operate our business safely and efficiently.”

Segment result for pulp

In the fourth quarter of 2021, pulp segment operating income increased to a record $113.2 million from $4.7 million in the same quarter of 2020 as higher sales realizations and the recognition of the business interruption insurance claim were only partially offset by higher energy and per unit fibre costs.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, prices for NBSK pulp increased from the same quarter of 2020 largely as a result of strong demand and low customer inventory levels. Average NBSK pulp sales realizations increased by approximately 33 percent to $784 per ADMT in the fourth quarter of 2021 from approximately $588 per ADMT in the same quarter of 2020.

Costs and expenses in the three months ended December 31, 2021 decreased by approximately five percent to $323.3 million from $339.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 due to the recognition of the business interruption insurance claim and lower pulp sales volume partially offset by higher energy costs primarily for the Rosenthal mill and higher per unit fibre costs. Our Rosenthal mill’s turbine was taken down in the third quarter of 2021 to complete extensive repair work which was completed in January 2022. The mill was required to purchase replacement energy during this period.

On average, in the fourth quarter of 2021, overall per unit fiber costs increased 19% when compared to the same quarter of 2020 due to strong demand and lower regional sawmill production. For our Canadian mills, per unit fiber costs increased primarily due to the Peace River mill producing a higher proportion of NBSK. In 2022, we are currently expecting modestly higher per unit fiber costs due to strong demand.