Year-end report January–December 2019
Stable net sales in a tougher market
- Strong net profit for the year and proposed increased dividend as a result of the successful divestment of Bergvik Skog Öst.
- Fourth quarter sales volume growth offset by negative changes in pricing and mix due to weaker market conditions.
- KM7 start-up impact in the fourth quarter in line with expectations.
- Net sales were flat and amounted to SEK 5 815 million (5 843).
- Adjusted EBITDA* was SEK 618 million (810), negatively affected by KM7 start-up effects of around SEK 170 million.
- Operating profit was SEK 103 million (414).
- Net profit was SEK 333 million (309), including dividend from Bergvik Skog AB of SEK 244 million and profit from discontinued operations of SEK 50 million.
- Earnings per share amounted to SEK 1.61 (1.49).
- The Board of Directors proposes an ordinary dividend of SEK 4.30 (4.30) per share and an extra dividend of SEK 4.30 (–). The Board also proposes that mandate is obtained for repurchase of shares.
- Stable demand for liquid packaging board and cartonboard.
- Somewhat uncertain market conditions for containerboard, but expected to stabilize.
- For sack and kraft paper market conditions are expected to remain weak throughout the first quarter.
- The total cost of fibre expected to be reduced due to lower pulpwood prices.
COMMENTS BY CEO
The year 2019 has in many ways been a challenging year. Since the summer the market has weakened considerably for several of our products, particularly for sack paper where both prices and volumes have dropped drastically. On the positive side liquid packaging board and cartonboard are holding up nicely and the downward trend for sack papers appears to have flattened out and stabilized.
In the fourth quarter sales volumes increased, but were offset by negative pricing and mix effects. Division Board delivered strong sales growth, while Division Paper continued to be under pressure and declined. Fourth quarter earnings were in addition to the weaker market also negatively impacted by start-up effects of the new board machine at Gruvön, KM7, of around SEK 170 million, which was in line with expectations. The ramp-up is proceeding and until the end of December the machine had produced more than 90 ktonnes of liner and cupstock.
A key event during the year was the successful divestment of Bergvik Skog Öst, which has resulted in a strong net profit and a solid balance sheet. After a period of heavy investments in capacity additions and upgrades the level of investments at our mills can be expected to be substantially lower for a period of time compared to the past couple of years. Against this context, the Board of Directors proposes an extra dividend of SEK 4.30 per share and in total a dividend of SEK 8.60 per share, a doubling of last years’ dividend level. The Board also proposes that authorization is obtained to repurchase own shares.
For 2020 we expect continued challenges and act accordingly. The cost and efficiency programme is running according to plan and is expected to result in savings of SEK 250 million in 2020. We also start to see some positive effects from decreasing wood prices, but we take a cautious stance since the warm and wet winter might cause some accessibility problems during the spring.
The ramp-up of KM7 is our number one priority for 2020. We recognize that we are somewhat behind our plan and have the ambition to catch up during the year. The share of prime grades and higher value products is expected to increase at an accelerating rate over the year. The first volumes of coated grades have been produced in the first quarter and our expectation is to initiate a process to certify material for liquid packaging board and cartonboard in the second quarter. Our present assessment is that the start-up of KM7 will impact EBITDA in 2020 negatively by SEK 150-350 million, primarily during the first half of the year.
BillerudKorsnäs has a historic opportunity to capture the increasing demand for sustainable packaging and the development is very much in our own hands. Over the next years we will focus on optimizing the use of the company’s assets leveraging recent investments with the objective to return to an EBITDA margin above 17%. Profitability is to be strengthened by maximizing customer value, reducing cost and improving efficiency and production output. We realize that 2020 will be a very challenging but also exciting year where focus is on execution to capture the potential in our business.
Acting President and CEO
The quarter in review
SALES AND RESULTS
Net sales for the fourth quarter were at the same level as for the previous year and amounted to SEK 5 815 million (5 843). Positive currency effects and higher sales volumes were offset by reduced prices as well as mix impact of the start-up of the new board machine at Gruvön. Net sales for the quarter were positively impacted by currency effects of 3%.
Adjusted EBITDA decreased to SEK 618 million (810), negatively affected by KM7 start-up effects of approximately SEK 170 million as well as reduced sales prices. Lower fibre costs, cost savings and currency effects had a positive impact.
The implementation of IFRS 16 affected adjusted EBITDA positively by SEK 27 million in the fourth quarter, see note 1.
Costs affecting comparability, reported in Other, amounted to a net amount of SEK 24 million (29) and included restructuring costs related to management severance pay as well as costs for the new board machine at Gruvön.
MARKET DEVELOPMENT AND OUTLOOK
The markets for liquid packaging board and cartonboard were stable in the fourth quarter, while uncertainty in the global containerboard market increased. The markets for sack and kraft paper weakened but price reductions for brown sack flattened out. The market pulp price index (PIX) declined from USD 850 at the end of September to USD 820 at the end of December.
For the next quarter, the demand in BillerudKorsnäs’ segments in liquid packaging board and cartonboard is expected to be stable. For containerboard somewhat uncertain but stabilized market conditions are expected. For sack and kraft paper market conditions are expected to remain weak for the first quarter.
EVENTS IN THE QUARTER
On 4 November, The Board of Directors appointed Lennart Holm as acting CEO. Lennart Holm has been a Board member of BillerudKorsnäs since 2012 and has been Chairman since 2014. Petra Einarsson left as CEO with immediate effect and the work to recruit a permanent CEO has started. As Lennart Holm assumed the role of acting CEO, the Board appointed Jan Åström as Chairman of the Board.
On 3 October, the new board machine at Gruvön, KM7, was officially opened with a well-visited inauguration ceremony.
Malin Ljung Eiborn was appointed EVP Sustainability and joined the Executive Leadership Team from 1 October 2019. Malin Ljung Eiborn was previously Director of Sustainability and Public Affairs at BillerudKorsnäs.
Paboco®, the joint venture between BillerudKorsnäs and ALPLA, presented in October the paper bottle community, a group of brands including Coca-Cola, Absolut, Carlsberg and L’Oréal.
BillerudKorsnäs announced a partnership with SKF at the Karlsborg mill, whereby real time data from a system with 480 connected monitoring points will be analyzed. This with enable smarter and faster decision-making to reduce maintenance costs and improve production output and sustainability performance.
In December, BillerudKorsnäs launched Repel Pure, a machine glazed kraft paper for food packaging, where the grease-resistant barrier is plant-based. Repel Pure can replace grease resistant paper products treated by a high-fluorinated chemical and is good for the environment as its barrier is completely degradable.
EVENTS AFTER THE QUARTER
For the sixth consecutive year, BillerudKorsnäs received in January the highest rating level in EcoVadis assessment of how well a company has integrated the principles of CSR into their business and management system. The evaluation shows that BillerudKorsnäs scores high in environmental and supply chain work, where one example is the company’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
For further information, please contact:
Ivar Vatne, CFO, +46 8 553 335 07
Lena Schattauer, Head of Investor Relations, +46 8 553 335 10
This information constituted inside information prior to publication. This is information that BillerudKorsnäs AB (publ) is obliged to make public pursuant to the EU Market Abuse Regulation. The information was submitted for publication, through the agency of the contact persons set out above, at 07.00 CET on 29 January 2020.