Financial summary for the quarter
- EBITDA excluding special items US$187 million (Q2 FY18 US$211 million)
- Profit for the period US$72 million (Q2 FY18 US$102 million)
- EPS excluding special items 13 US cents (Q2 FY18 17 US cents)
- Net debt US$1,680 million (Q2 FY18 US$1,632 million)
Commenting on the result, Sappi Limited Chief Executive Officer Steve Binnie said: “The business continued to be supported by the investments made in recent years to diversify the product portfolio with packaging and specialities sales volumes for the group up 18% and dissolving pulp (DP) increasing by 16% year-on-year. However, graphic paper markets were much weaker than expected due to an economic slowdown and the impact from selling prices implemented last year. Demand from our major DP customers remained healthy. Solid containerboard demand and a recovery of consumer packaging were offset by continued weakness in the self-adhesives and release paper segments.”
Demand in our major graphic paper product categories was down between 8% and 13% in Europe and North America. We were thus compelled to take production downtime of 85,000 tons across our paper machines in these regions. DP sales volumes increased following the debottlenecking of the Saiccor and Ngodwana Mills in the past year, and a strong operating performance from the DP mills. In Europe, packaging and specialities volumes increased by 25% compared to a year ago due to the ramp-up of the Maastricht Mill conversion and the benefit of a full quarter of Cham paper volumes. The ramp-up of Sappi North America’s Somerset Mill PM1 paperboard grades continued with sales volumes 68% higher than the prior quarter. These markets require complex and lengthy qualification processes. The South African business delivered another excellent performance, with increased DP sales volumes and higher average net selling prices for all major product categories offsetting higher energy and fibre cost pressures.
Raw material costs, in particular pulp, energy, wood and chemical costs continued to be elevated.
Looking towards the rest of the year, Binnie indicated that “in support of our transition to growing and higher margin segments, capital expenditure for the remainder of 2019 is expected to be approximately US$370 million. The major projects included are the recently completed pulp mill debottlecking at Cloquet as well as the ongoing 110kt Saiccor Mill expansion and Lanaken Mill PM8 conversion from coated mechanical to coated woodfree paper production projects.”
He concluded by saying that “Given the current weak market conditions for graphic paper, DP pricing pressure from oversupplied VSF markets and our more conservative outlook on the global economy, the second half and full year profitability are now expected to be below that of last year.”
Dissolving pulp demand from our major customers remains healthy. The expanded production capacity, following the debottlenecking of Saiccor and Ngodwana Mills in 2018, remains fully sold. Our DP contract sales prices lag Chinese market prices by a quarter and therefore the decline in market prices over the past few months along with planned maintenance downtime at all three of our DP mills will impact margins and profitability in the third quarter.
Packaging and speciality markets, with the exception of release and self-adhesive papers, are growing. Raw material prices remain a concern for non-integrated mills, however pulp and chemical costs have started to decline recently. The ramp-up and product mix optimisation process continues at Somerset and Maastricht Mills as qualification and customer acceptance work is completed. Demand for South African packaging products is expected to be strong.
Graphic paper markets remain weak, and despite expected closures or conversions by competitors, it may take the remainder of the calendar year before sufficient capacity is removed to allow operating rates and margins to recover. Some relief may be expected from lower input costs going forward as paper pulp and some chemical prices have reduced in recent months. The conversion of Lanaken Mill PM8 to coated woodfree from coated mechanical will be completed during the third quarter, with some negative impact on production and fixed costs due to machine downtime in the interim.
The full results announcement is available at www.sappi.com
There will be a conference call to which investors are invited. Full details are available at www.sappi.com using the links Investors; Latest financial results.
Certain statements in this release that are neither reported financial results nor other historical information, are forward-looking statements, including but not limited to statements that are predictions of or indicate future earnings, savings, synergies, events, trends, plans or objectives. The words “believe”, “anticipate”, “expect”, “intend”, “estimate”, “plan”, “assume”, “positioned”, “will”, “may”, “should”, “risk” and other similar expressions, which are predictions of or indicate future events and future trends and which do not relate to historical matters, and may be used to identify forward-looking statements. You should not rely on forward-looking statements because they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which are in some cases beyond our control and may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from anticipated future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements (and from past results, performance or achievements). Certain factors that may cause such differences include but are not limited to:
- the highly cyclical nature of the pulp and paper industry (and the factors that contribute to such cyclicality, such as levels of demand, production capacity, production, input costs
including raw material, energy and employee costs, and pricing);
- the impact on our business of a global economic downturn;
- unanticipated production disruptions (including as a result of planned or unexpected power outages);
- changes in environmental, tax and other laws and regulations;
- adverse changes in the markets for our products;
- the emergence of new technologies and changes in consumer trends including increased preferences for digital media;
- consequences of our leverage, including as a result of adverse changes in credit markets that affect our ability to raise capital when needed;
- adverse changes in the political situation and economy in the countries in which we operate or the effect of governmental efforts to address present or future economic or social problems;
- the impact of restructurings, investments, acquisitions, dispositions and other strategic initiatives (including related financing), any delays, unexpected costs or other problems
experienced in connection with dispositions or with integrating acquisitions or implementing restructuring and other strategic initiatives and achieving expected savings and synergies; and
- currency fluctuations.
We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any of these forward-looking statements, whether to reflect new information or future events or circumstances or otherwise.
on behalf of Sappi Limited
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André F Oberholzer
Group Head Corporate Affairs
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Group Head Investor Relations and Sustainability
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