Global forest, paper and packaging earnings slide deep into the red: PricewaterhouseCoopers

    Industry profits tumbled from earnings of $13.8 billion in 2007 to record
    losses of $8.0 billion in 2008

    TORONTO, June 24 /CNW/ - The Top 100 Forest, Paper and Packaging (FPP)
companies from around the world saw net income tumble from positive $13.8
billion in 2007 to record losses of $8.0 billion in 2008, the first time this
metric has been negative since 1996, the date PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
began the annual PwC Global Forest, Paper & Packaging Industry Survey. This
year's survey shows that:

    - Total sales were $357 billion in 2008, up from $333 billion in 2007.
    - Cash flow from operations totaled $26 billion in 2008, down from $31
      billion in 2007.
    - Operating income of $21 billion represented a decrease of 19% compared
      to 2007.
    - Average ROCE (return on capital employed) dropped from 4.9% in 2007 to
      2.4% in 2008. Only six companies earned a return of 10% or more in
      2008, compared to 14 in 2007.

    "The sharp decline is mainly due to the impact of losses realized by
major players in many of the mature markets as a result of low demand,
goodwill and fixed asset impairments, restructuring, severance and high
operating costs," says said Craig Campbell, leader of PwC's Performance
Improvement practice for the global forest and paper industry, and author of
the PwC survey. "This year's Survey results reflect the significant challenges
faced by the sector, with the PwC Top 100 companies' net income sliding deep
into the red, as well as return on equity and ROCE falling sharply from the
already low levels seen in 2007."
    According to the Survey, six companies made the list of 2008 ROCE leaders
achieving ROCE greater than 10%. Only two companies from China made the
shortened list in 2008 compared to three in 2007 reflecting the widespread
impact of the global slowdown. In 2007 emerging market producers were among
the leaders in ROCE - a key measure of performance. In 2008 Emerging Asia ROCE
for 2008 remained flat at 7.2% (2007: 7.7%). Chinese companies ROCE at 8.1%
showed resilience compared to Latin American producers, who's ROCE dwindled to
3.0% from 9.0% in 2007.
    According to Campbell, "Large sections of the FPP industry are struggling
to survive in the current global recession and there can be little doubt that
major changes will need to occur in order for companies to remain competitive
in the face of falling global demand. Whether or not the industry will truly
be transformed - either via long-overdue consolidation, notably in Europe, or
a shift in business models, or both - remains to be seen."
    The ROCE leaders for 2008 - greater than 10% - from the Survey include:
    - Kimberly-Clark Mexico (Mexico): 22.3% in 2008 vs. 20.3% in 2007
    - Kimberly-Clark (US): 14.8% in 2008 vs. 15.2% in 2007
    - Sino Forest (China/Canada): 12.7% in 2008 vs. 12.8% in 2007
    - Lee & Man Paper (China): 12.4% in 2008 vs. 15.0% in 2007
    - Sonoco (US): 10.3% in 2008 vs. 10.5% in 2007

    Country specific results


    While Canada's forest and paper industry realized improvements in product
prices during the first half of the year, the onset of the global financial
crisis and reduction in demand resulted in inventory increases and reductions
in sales volumes for the last half of the year.
    "Many companies recorded write downs and asset impairments, as companies
looked to restructure and clean up their balance sheets," says Campbell. "Not
only did the much anticipated recovery in the US markets served by Canadian
producers not materialize in 2008, a number of Canadian producers actually
described the year as the most difficult and worst downturn in recent
    The 11 Canadian companies accounted for 8.4% of PwC Top 100 sales. Their
sales value of $30 billion was 8.7% greater than the comparable value of the
11 in 2007, however much of the $2.4 billion increase in sales is attributable
to the inclusion of full year results for Abitibi, which merged with Bowater
in October 2007. If the AbitibiBowater results are excluded, sales remained
flat compared to prior year.
    Net losses rose 355% to $4.0 billion (2007: $0.9 billion). All 11
Canadian companies reported a net loss in 2008 while only eight of them
experienced net losses in 2007. Net losses were deepened by a stronger
Canadian dollar, goodwill and other asset impairments charges. AbitibiBowater
reported the most significant decline in profitability, with a net loss of
$2.2 billion in 2008, compared with a 2007 net loss of $0.5 billion. The
company sought creditor protection proceedings in April 2009.
    Overall ROCE decreased to -5.0% in 2008, down from 0.0% in 2007. Cascades
(primarily packaging) was the only Canadian company in the PwC Top 100 to
report a positive ROCE in 2008 at 0.9% (4.6% in the previous year), followed
by Domtar (primarily fine paper) at 0.0% (4.5%). All other companies reported
a negative ROCE.


    The big story in Europe in 2008 was cuts in production and capacity
nearly across the board. Temporary and permanent reductions in production
capacity have improved the supply and demand balance in the paper industry,
especially in newsprint, magazine and coated fine papers.
    "Most of the European companies in the PwC Top 100 have portfolios which
are dominated by pulp, paper and packaging businesses," says Campbell.
"However, 2008 was nearly universally as grim for those in wood products as
oversupply in the face of falling construction demand caused prices to fall.
Despite massive efforts to reduce capacity, it will take some time to
establish a stable supply and demand balance in the European market."
    Sales by the 30 European-based companies included in the PwC Top 100
amounted to $128 billion, up 5.1% from the $122 billion reported for 2007.
However, when reported in Euros, 2008 sales actually decreased by 1.9% to
(euro) 87 billion from (euro) 89 billion, due to the 7% depreciation of the US
dollar against the Euro in 2008. European companies' sales were higher than US
companies for the second year in a row.
    Net losses amounted to $1.5 billion, reversing the net income of $3.3
billion reported in 2007. Fourteen European companies posted net losses in
2008, compared to only four of those companies reporting losses in 2007. The
sharp decrease in net income is attributed to both market conditions and asset
impairments; in some cases there were significant foreign exchange losses.
    Sequana Capital (fine and specialty paper production and paper
merchanting) showed the steepest decline, moving from $195 million in net
income in 2007 to a net loss of $630 million in 2008. Stora Enso (paper,
packaging and wood products) was next at $991 million in net losses, down $697
million from the $294 million in net losses reported in 2007. Sequana's losses
were mainly due to discontinued operations, impairment and restructuring
charges which amounted to (euro) 500 million, while Stora's losses from
restructuring and impairments amounted to (euro)1 billion.
    SCA (tissue and personal care, packaging, graphic papers and wood
products) was the most profitable European company in 2008 with net income of
$857 million (2007: $1.1 billion). SCA's net income benefited from its strong
exposure to the less-cyclical hygiene segment.
    ROCE was 2.9% in 2008, down from 5.0% in 2007. DS Smith (mainly
packaging) and Heinzel Group (mainly pulp) earned the highest ROCE in Europe
at 10% and 9.9% respectively. Results for DS Smith are based on a company
year-end of April 30, 2008, so do not reflect the impact of global downturn
later in the year. Heinzel Group benefited from the favorable pulp markets
until the third quarter, as well as gains on exchange derivative values.

    United States

    As in Europe, many American companies reduced or shifted capacity. The
AF&PA reported an overall capacity reduction of 0.8% for the year, with the
sharpest drops coming in newsprint (8.6%) and printing and writing paper
(3.9%). Capacity for uncoated mechanical actually increased, as some machines
were shifted to this grade from newsprint.
    According to Campbell, "In recent months the industry has focused quite
intently upon a provision of the US tax laws that provide tax refunds and
credits for alternative energy. Some paper manufacturers who use a bio-fuel
known as black liquor are eligible for the credits and some estimates suggest
the industry could receive as much as $6 billion in tax credits from the US
government by the end of 2009, and many paper-makers have already collected
millions of dollars in the first few months of 2009."
    The 24 US-based companies in the PwC Top 100 reported aggregated sales of
$104 billion. Collectively they represent 29% of the total sales of the PwC
Top 100. This compares with $100 billion or 30% of total sales in 2007.
Overall sales performance increased by a modest 3.8% compared to last year.
    Net income decreased sharply from positive $5.6 billion in 2007 to $2.9
billion in net losses in 2008. Eleven out of the 24 US companies reported net
losses totaling $5.5 billion in 2008 and only eight of those reported
collective losses of $0.5 billion in 2007.
    US companies with positive results saw a decline in their net income,
with the exception of Buckeye Technologies ($17 million increase,
cellulose-based products) and Rock-Tenn (results unchanged from 2007,
packaging). The net losses line was dominated by Smurfit-Stone's $2.8 billion
loss due primarily to goodwill and other intangible assets impairment charges
of $2.7 billion, and International Paper's $1.3 billion net losses, which
include $1.8 billion of goodwill impairment charges and $179 million of
restructuring and other charges.
    ROCE amounted to 2.9 % in 2008, down from 5.2% in 2007. Kimberly-Clark at
14.8% (2007: 15.2%) and Sonoco at 10.3% (2007: 10.5%) were the only two
companies that earned a ROCE greater than 10%.


    The severe impact on Japan can be traced to falling demand and the sharp
appreciation of the Yen by 25% in Q4. In 2008 Japan experienced the sharpest
export decline in the country's post-war history. Forecasts suggest that a
turn-around is not imminent, but as in other markets, the outlook is
    Japanese FPP companies all have their fiscal years ending on March 31.
Their financial data included in this Survey are for the 12 months ended March
31, 2008. Consequently, the results included in the Survey are not reflective
of the calendar year 2008, especially the deterioration of the economy
starting September 2008.
    Sales for the 12 Japanese companies for the 12 months ended March 31,
2008 rose by 18.2%, however net income for the year decreased to $597 million
from $765 million in 2007. The increase in sales was mainly due to the
appreciation of the Yen against the dollar during the first quarter of 2008.
When reported in Yen, sales increased slightly to (Yen)5,150 billion from
(Yen)4,987 billion in 2007, and net income decreased by 32% from (Yen)90
billion in March 31, 2007 to (Yen)61 billion in 2008. The average ROCE
decreased to 2.1% in 2008 from 2.5% in 2007.
    The slow down in global economic activity has also impacted the Japanese
companies' performance for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2009. A preliminary
review of recent financial information indicates that net income dropped
markedly from $597 million to close to $50 million for the 12 months ended
March 31, 2009.

    Latin America

    Pulp markets closed 2008 in an oversupply situation despite market
curtailments. Performance of Latin American companies is unlikely to show
major improvement until pulp demand and prices pick up.
    The nine Latin American based companies on the PwC Top 100 list reported
aggregate sales of $17.8 billion, or 5.0% of total sales of the PwC Top 100.
This compares with $17 billion in 2007.
    Net losses amounted to $1.3 billion in 2008, a sharp drop from the $3.8
billion in net earnings achieved in 2007. Much of the drop can be attributed
to Aracruz, which reported a charge of $2.1 billion from exposure to foreign
currency derivatives. Five companies reported net losses in 2008, versus only
Durango (Mexico) in 2007.
    Latin American companies did not replicate the 2007 return on capital
employed average of 9.0%, return on capital employed dropped to 3.0% in 2008.
Kimberly-Clark Mexico was the only exception, reporting the highest ROCE in
2008 at 22.3%, up from 2007's 20.3%. The company benefited from strong
exposure to the tissue papers segment, where demand has been less severely
impacted by the economic crisis. Arauco kept second place with 2008 ROCE at
6.8%, down from 11.9% in 2007. VCP's ROCE fell to -3.9% from 10.9% in 2007
mainly due to losses on foreign currency derivatives and an equity investment
loss in Aracruz.

    Emerging Asia

    China continued to face fibre deficits during 2008, whereas India has
been driving growth in the region in recent years with healthy rates of
growth, yet is now seeing huge challenges.
    Companies in this region increased their sales to $14 billion in 2008,
19% higher than the $12 billion in 2007. Net profits were $1.04 billion in
2008 compared to $0.97 billion in 2007. While the results for Emerging Asia
initially appear to be significantly better than those of peers in other
regions, it should be noted that Nine Dragons and Ballarpur both have June 30
fiscal year-ends, while Lee & Man's is March 31, 2008. Consequently, 2008
results for these companies do not reflect the adverse market conditions that
occurred in the second half of 2008.
    The performance of this group was dominated by the six Chinese companies.
Sales by the Chinese based companies included in this group amounted to $8.0
billion, up by 31% from the $6.1 billion reported in 2007, and representing
58% of the total sales of the group. The increase in sales was led by Lee &
Man Paper and Nine Dragons Paper (both mainly containerboard) posting
increases of 75% and 57% respectively.
    ROCE was 7.2% slightly down from 7.7% in 2007. Sino Forest (mainly
Chinese plantations investor and trader) had the highest ROCE at 12.7%
followed by Lee & Man at 12.4%. They were the only companies that achieved
over 10% ROCE in 2008. Overall, ROCE of the six Chinese companies was 8.1%
down from 10.4 % in 2007. Shandong Chenming was the only Chinese company that
recognized a modest growth in its ROCE at 7.8% (2007: 6.3%), in addition to
Ballarpur (India) and Hansol (Korea) at 8.6% (2007: 8.3%), 2.9% (2007: 1.2%)
respectively. This improvement is mainly due to higher production and sales
volumes. Production efficiency was improved by continued closures of old
capacity and the benefit of new, more efficient capacity coming on stream.

    Other regions

    Our PwC Top 100 includes companies from some regions not addressed in
this analysis, notably Australia and South Africa. Sales for the one
Australian and two South African companies remained flat at $13.3 billion,
compared to $12.9 billion in 2007. Net profit dropped notably for the two
South African companies, declining from $241 million in 2007 to $72 million in
2008, primarily as a result of impairment and restructuring charges.

    Survey methodology

    PwC's 2009 Global Forest. Paper, and Packaging Industry Survey summarize
the 2008 year-over-year financial information of the "PwC Top 100" - The 100
largest forest products companies in the world with publicly available data.
Companies are rated by annual sales revenue.
    Return on capital employed (ROCE) is calculated as net income before
unusual items, minority interest and interest expenses, on an after-tax basis,
divided by average total assets less average non-interest bearing current
    All figures are in US dollars unless otherwise indicated.
    For more information, please visit

    About PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

    PricewaterhouseCoopers ( provides industry-focused assurance,
tax and advisory services to build public trust and enhance value for its
clients and their stakeholders. More than 155,000 people in 153 countries
across our network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop
fresh perspectives and practical advice. In Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
( and its related entities have more than 5,200 partners and
staff in offices across the country.
    "PricewaterhouseCoopers" refers to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario
limited liability partnership, or, as the context requires, the
PricewaterhouseCoopers global network or other member firms of the network,
each of which is a separate and independent legal entity.

For further information:

For further information: Carolyn Forest, (416) 814-5730,; Kiran Chauhan, (416) 947-8983,

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