Metsä Board Corporation Stock exchange release Half-year financial report 27 July 2023 at 12:00 noon EEST
January–June 2023 (compared to 1–6/2022)
Sales were EUR 1,040.2 million (1,232.5).
The comparable operating result was EUR 116.0 million 267.4), or 11.2% of sales (21.7). Operating result was EUR 117.9 million (283.3).
Comparable earnings per share were EUR 0.24 (0.57), and earnings per share were EUR 0.25 (0.61).
Comparable return on capital employed was 9.3 % (23.0).
Net cash flow from operations was EUR 142.0 million (95.3).
April–June 2023 (compared to 4–6/2022)
Sales were EUR 498.2 million (650.5).
The comparable operating result was EUR 27.3 million (145.9), or 5.5% (22.4) of sales. Operating result was EUR 29.5 million (142.6).
Comparable earnings per share were EUR 0.05 (0.31), and earnings per share were EUR 0.06 (0.30).
Comparable return on capital employed was 4.6% (25.0).
Net cash flow from operations was EUR 15.6 million (2.7).
Events in April–June 2023
The average price of Metsä Board’s paperboards remained stable compared with the previous quarter and improved clearly compared to the corresponding period last year.
The demand for fresh fibre paperboards declined due to the decreasing demand for consumer products and the adjustments made to inventories in the value chain.
Metsä Board strongly adjusted its paperboard, pulp and BCTMP production to match demand. Production volumes were clearly below capacity levels. The associated company Metsä Fibre also adjusted its pulp production.
The global market situation for pulp weakened. In Europe, the demand for pulp has quickly decreased following the production curtailments imposed on paperboard and especially on paper. The market prices for pulp (PIX) decreased from the previous quarter in both Europe and China.
On 17 May 2023, Metsä Board initiated change negotiations on possible temporary layoffs at all its mills in Finland.
Metsä Board achieved the highest level, Platinum, in Ecovadis’s sustainability evaluation.
The European commission closed its antitrust investigation into the softwood pulp sector, initiated in 2021, as it found no grounds for continuing it. The investigation focused on the associated company Metsä Fibre and was part of a broader investigation into the sector.
The global market environment will remain uncertain, and the outlook for the near-term development of paperboard sales continues to be weak. The increase in consumers’ living costs affects purchasing behaviour and the demand for consumer products. The value chain is expected to follow the market situation in its inventory adjustment efforts. In Europe, competition will be increased by the higher import volumes form Asia.
Metsä Board’s paperboard delivery volumes in July–September 2023 are expected to remain at roughly the same level as in April–June 2023 (353,000 tonnes). The company will continue its production adjustment measures in line with the demand situation. Paperboard sales prices in local currencies are expected to remain stable in the Americas in the third quarter. In the EMEA and APAC regions, prices are expected to decrease slightly compared to the second quarter.
In Europe, the demand outlook for market pulp is expected to remain muted due to the continued production curtailments in the paperboard and paper industry. In China, a slight seasonal pickup in demand is expected in the latter part of the year. Market prices for pulp (PIX) are expected to remain stable in China and weaken in Europe compared to the second quarter. No significant changes are expected in the demand for sawn timber.
Total costs are expected to remain fairly stable.
In the third quarter, maintenance and investment shutdowns will take place in Husum and Kemi. Compared to the second quarter, their negative impact on the result will be approximately EUR 10 million.
In July–September 2023, exchange rate fluctuations, including the impact of hedges, will have a slightly positive impact on the result compared to April–June 2023 and a clearly positive impact compared to July-September 2022.
Result guidance for July–September 2023
Metsä Board’s comparable operating result in July–September 2023 is expected to be weaker than in April–June 2023.
Metsä Board’s CEO Mika Joukio:
“The market situation for paperboard has changed rapidly from last year. The exceptionally strong demand has reversed, while our cost level has quickly increased. The increase in consumers’ living costs has reduced overall consumption and changed purchasing behaviour. The demand for fresh fibre paperboards continues to be affected by the decline in demand for consumer products and the adjustments to inventories in the value chain. Cost inflation has slowed this year, but it still has an impact on profitability.
Metsä Board’s second-quarter sales were EUR 498 million, and comparable operating margin was 5.5 (Q2/2022: 651 and 22.4). The quarter was characterised by low volumes in both sales and production. Total production volumes of paperboard, pulp and BCTMP dropped by roughly a third compared to the same period last year. Due to the prolonged weak demand situation, we initiated change negotiations on possible temporary layoffs at all our mills in Finland. The first layoffs were carried out in July, and they will continue in the latter part of the year if required. Despite the decline in sales volumes, the average price of our paperboards remained at the level of the first quarter.
Our sales in January–June were EUR 1,040 million, and our comparable operating margin was 11.2 (H1/2022: 1,232 and 21.7). Our profitability improved in particular due to higher sales prices for folding boxboard, supported by a favourable currency effect. However, paperboard delivery volumes decreased by more than 20%, and those of pulp and BCTMP by nearly 40% from the comparison period. To manage our working capital, we adjusted our production considerably to match the low level of demand. Total costs, excluding pulp, were approximately 10% higher than in the comparison period. In addition, the weakening in the global pulp market has had a significant negative impact on our result this year.
As global challenges in logistics have eased, the volumes of paperboard imported from Asia to Europe have increased again, leading to increased competition. In our main market areas, we focus on customers who benefit from sustainably produced premium fresh fibre paperboards. Our competitiveness is strengthened by reliable deliveries, as well as our service concept, which helps our customers with various packaging challenges such as decreasing the carbon footprint of packaging, reducing the use of plastic and improving production efficiency.
As we continue to manage our working capital more effectively, we will continue to adjust production, at least in the coming months. In the third quarter, our results will be affected in particular by the weak pulp market and costs related to maintenance and investment shutdowns.
As the long-term trends supporting the growth in demand for sustainably produced fresh fibre paperboards remain unchanged, I feel positive about Metsä Board’s future, despite the current uncertainty in the global economy. Our company is in strong financial shape, and we are making long-term sustainable investments in fibre-based packaging materials with strong growth prospects. This year we will complete our paperboard investments in Husum and Kemi, which will increase our paperboard capacity by about a tenth from the current level.”
Source: Metsä Board
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