Canfor Corp. reports first-quarter profit, sales up from year ago

VANCOUVER - Lumber producer Canfor Corp. (TSX:CFP) said Wednesday it earned $67.5 million in its latest quarter compared with a loss a year ago, helped by a strengthening U.S. housing market.

The company said the profit amounted to 43 cents per share for the quarter ended March 31 compared with a loss of $12.9 million or 13 cents per share a year ago.

Sales totalled $786.3 million, up from $593.8 million.

Canfor's lumber business reported sales of $542.3 million for the quarter, up from $343.7 million a year ago, while its pulp and paper business earned sales of $243.5 million, down from $249.4 million in the first quarter of 2012.

The company said lumber markets strengthened through the quarter due to the recovery in the U.S. housing market and solid offshore demand, however the Canadian housing market showed some weakness in the quarter.

Lumber production for the quarter amounted to under 1.2 billion board feet, was up eight per cent or 92.5 million board feet from a year ago, due to a full quarter of production from the recently restarted Radium mill and improved productivity.

Meanwhile, Canfor said its softwood pulp markets remained "fairly challenging" though conditions improved slightly through the quarter.

Pulp shipments for the quarter totalled 308,200 tonnes, down from 327,800 tonnes a year ago, while paper shipments grew to 35,000 tonnes, up from 29,600 tonnes in the first quarter of 2012.

Shares in Canfor, which reported its results after the close of markets, were down 37 cents at $20.67 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

The lumber, pulp and paper producer has production facilities in B.C., Alberta, Quebec and the United States.