Stora Enso fourth quarter results surged due to asset sales, but the company has still ended the year well into the red, leaving many analysts wondering if it can maintain its renewed momentum in the year ahead.
For the fourth quarter the company's profits amounted to €143.0 million. The non-recurring items of the fourth quarter totalled €99.8 million, comprising the divestment of forestlands in Finland and the USA (€75.4 million), and a positive currency effect (€24.4 million) from the change in the USD conversion rate applied to the impairment charge in the third quarter.
Sales of €3 212.1 million were 3.3 per cent more than the previous quarter's €3 108.6 million.
Stora Enso full year sales amounted to €12 782.6 million, a decrease of 2726.2 million or 5.4 per cent on the previous year. The operating profit excluding non-recurring items was €926.5 million, or 7.2 per cent of sales (€1 495.2 million), a decrease of 38.0 per cent on the previous year.
Commenting on the market outlook, Stora Enso's CEO Jukka Härmälä said: "In Europe demand for advertising-driven papers is stable at low levels, but prices are under pressure mainly due to oversupply. In North America demand improved from low levels in advertising-driven paper grades towards the end of 2002. This positive trend has continued so far in 2003.
The further continuation of the positive trend in North America, and the outlook for global paper markets, depends largely on the outcome of the current geopolitical situation."
Stora Enso, one of the world's largest forest product companies, employs 42,000 people in 40 countries.