By: The Working Forest Staff
NEW YORK, GLOBE NEWSWIRE — Mercer International Inc. has reported fourth-quarter 2020 Operating EBITDA increased to $49.5 million from negative $34.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2019 and $45.6 million in the third quarter of 2020.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, net loss was $13.0 million (or $0.20 per share) compared to a net loss of $72.7 million (or $1.11 per share) in the fourth quarter of 2019 and net income of $7.5 million (or $0.11 per share) in the third quarter of 2020.
In 2020, Operating EBITDA decreased by 8% to $192.7 million from $210.4 million in 2019 and the net loss was $17.2 million (or $0.26 per share) compared to $9.6 million (or $0.15 per share) in 2019.
Mr. David Gandossi, the Chief Executive Officer, stated: “All of our mills ran well in the fourth quarter. Our Rosenthal and Peace River mills successfully and safely completed a total of 16 days of annual maintenance downtime. Our recent capital investment in our Friesau sawmill continues to pay dividends in the form of a record quarterly operating income of $12.9 million in the fourth quarter.
Our fourth-quarter results are highlighted by improved pulp pricing and moderately lower fiber costs, as well as steady production. Fourth-quarter average European NBSK list prices were up $40 per ADMT, and average net prices in China were up $65 per ADMT compared to the third quarter. Pulp market fundamentals continued to improve in the fourth quarter allowing us to achieve record sales volumes.
*Operating EBITDA is not a measure of financial performance under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (“GAAP”) and should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for analysis of our results as reported under GAAP. See page 6 of the financial tables included in this press release for a reconciliation of net income (loss) to Operating EBITDA.
Our wood products segment had record operating results this quarter and benefited from strong demand and robust pricing in the U.S. market. In the current quarter, approximately 56% of lumber revenues and 37% of our lumber sales volumes were to the U.S. which was our single largest market.
In the first quarter of 2021, our pulp mills have 20 days of planned annual maintenance downtime (approximately 27,600 ADMTs).
In January 2021, we issued $875 million of 5.125% senior notes due 2029 to refinance and repay all $250 million of our 6.5% senior notes due 2024 and all $550 million of our 7.375% senior notes due 2025. This transaction reduces our cost of capital and extends the maturity of our senior note debt to 2026 at the earliest. After giving effect to the transaction, going forward it will reduce our annual interest expense by approximately $12 million.
While I am pleased that COVID-19 vaccines are beginning to be administered globally, it will be some time before the pandemic is behind us. In late 2020, there was a second wave in reported infections in Europe, the United States, and Canada, as well as the emergence of new variants of the virus. As such, we remain committed to maintaining measures and procedures to operate our business safely and efficiently and protect our people.
Looking ahead to 2021, we are encouraged by the improving fundamentals in pulp demand and markets and continued price increases implemented in 2021 to date. Along with continuing strong lumber markets and our ample liquidity position, we are positioned well to execute our strategic plan in 2021.”
Consolidated – Three Months Ended December 31, 2020, Compared to Three Months Ended December 31, 2019
Total revenues for the three months ended December 31, 2020, increased by approximately 20% to $398.2 million from $331.2 million in the same quarter of 2019 primarily due to higher pulp and energy sales volumes and higher lumber sales realizations.
Costs and expenses in the current quarter decreased by approximately 4% to $382.6 million from $397.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2019 primarily due to lower annual maintenance costs and per unit fiber costs partially offset by higher pulp sales volumes and the negative impact of a weaker dollar on our euro and Canadian dollar-denominated costs and expenses. The fourth quarter of 2019 included the reversal of $13.7 million in accrued wastewater fees as a result of completing certain approved capital projects.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, Operating EBITDA increased to $49.5 million from negative $34.2 million in the same quarter of 2019 primarily due to lower annual maintenance costs, lower per unit fiber costs, higher pulp and energy sales volumes, and higher lumber sales realizations.
Pulp segment operating income increased to $4.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to an operating loss of $66.6 million in the same quarter of 2019 due to lower annual maintenance and per unit fiber costs and higher pulp and energy sales volumes.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, our pulp sales realizations were flat at $588 per ADMT from $581 per ADMT in the same quarter of the prior year. NBSK sales volumes increased by approximately 13% to a record 469,544 ADMTs in the current quarter from 416,569 ADMTs in the same quarter of 2019 primarily due to lower annual maintenance downtime. In the current quarter of 2020, our pulp mills had 16 days of annual maintenance downtime (approximately 21,500 ADMTs). In the comparative quarter of 2019, our pulp mills had 54 days of annual maintenance downtime (approximately 86,500 ADMTs). We estimate that such downtime in the fourth quarter of 2020 adversely impacted our operating income by approximately $14.7 million, comprised of approximately $9.4 million in direct out-of-pocket expenses and the balance in reduced production. Many of our competitors that report their results using International Financial Reporting Standards capitalize their direct costs of maintenance downtime.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, per unit fiber costs decreased by approximately 19% from the same quarter of 2019 due to lower per-unit fiber costs for all of our mills. In Germany, per unit fiber costs benefited from the continuing availability of beetle-damaged wood. In Canada, per unit fiber costs declined due to increased sawmill activity but remained at historically high levels due to strong demand in the mills’ fiber procurement areas.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, our wood products segment had a record operating income of $12.9 million compared to $5.3 million in the same quarter of 2019 primarily due to higher realized sales prices.
Average lumber sales realizations increased by approximately 35% to $467 per Mfbm in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to approximately $347 per Mfbm in the same quarter of 2019 primarily due to higher pricing in the U.S. market. U.S. lumber pricing increased due to strong demand in the fourth quarter of 2020 from the U.S. housing and renovation markets. European lumber pricing modestly increased in the quarter due to steady demand with limited supply.
Per unit fiber costs decreased by approximately 5% in the fourth quarter of 2020 from the same quarter of 2019 primarily as a result of the continuing availability of beetle-damaged wood.
Consolidated – Year Ended December 31, 2020, Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2019
Total revenues in 2020 decreased by approximately 12% to $1,423.1 million from $1,624.4 million in 2019 primarily due to lower pulp sales realizations and pulp sales volumes partially offset by higher lumber sales realizations and lumber sales volumes.
Costs and expenses in 2020 decreased by approximately 12% to $1,359.4 million from $1,540.4 million in 2019 primarily due to lower per-unit fiber costs, maintenance costs, and pulp sales volumes. 2019 costs and expenses included a reversal of $20.9 million in accrued wastewater fees at our German pulp mills.
In 2020, we had $5.9 million of other income primarily due to a $17.5 million gain on the sale of investments partially offset by a $13.8 million foreign exchange loss primarily on the translation of dollar-denominated cash held at our mills as the dollar weakened at the end of 2020. In 2019, we had $6.1 million of other income primarily due to interest earned on cash.
In 2020, Operating EBITDA decreased by approximately 8% to $192.7 million from $210.4 million in 2019 as lower pulp sales realizations were only partially offset by lower per unit fiber costs, lower maintenance costs and higher lumber sales realizations.
As of December 31, 2020, we had cash and cash equivalents of approximately $361.1 million, approximately $266.8 million available under our revolving credit facilities, providing aggregate liquidity of about $627.9 million.
Current Market Environment
In January 2021, published NBSK list prices increased $50 per ADMT in Europe, and $30 per ADMT in North America and net prices increased $100 per ADMT in China. Although there is continued economic uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the recent NBSK price increases and an improving supply-demand balance, we are currently expecting stable pulp demand and modestly improving prices during the course of 2021.
In our lumber segment, going into 2021 we currently expect continued strong lumber demand and prices in the U.S. market along with modestly improving sales realizations in the European market.
A quarterly dividend of $0.065 per share will be paid on April 7, 2021 to all shareholders of record on March 31, 2021. Future dividends will be subject to Board approval and may be adjusted as business and industry conditions warrant.
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