Wausau Paper recently reported first-quarter financial results. The company reported a net loss of $6.8 million or .14 cents per share compared with net earnings of $15 million or .29 cents per share last year.
Net sales declined less than 1 percent to $298.7 million, the company reported. Shipments decreased 8 percent, primarily associated with the 2007 closure of the Groveton, N.H. paper mill, Wausau reported.
"The general economic weakness that began in late 2007 continued into the first quarter with demand decline extending into several of our markets," Thomas J. Howatt, Wausau president and CEO, said in a news release. At the same time, Howatt said fiber and energy costs increased for a combined $17 million when compared to last year. Focusing on strategic markets has positioned Wausau for improved results ahead, Howatt said.
Howatt pointed to the company's exit from specialty products' unprofitable roll warp business and the company's emphasis on environmentally friendly towel and tissue products.
Wausau's printing and writing division had a first-quarter operating loss of $12.5 million compared to a loss of $1.8 million a year ago.
"We are pleased with the progress made against our profit recovery plan and remain on pace to return printing and writing to profitable levels in the third quarter," Howatt said, adding the transition from a three-mill to a two-mill manufacturing system has gone smoothly. Wausau opened an East Coast distribution center. Wausau's towel and tissue operations reported operating profits of $6.1 million compared to profits of $9.7 million last year. Wausau's specialty products reported a first quarter operating loss of $4 million compared to an operating profit of $2.7 million last year. Wausau sold about 1,300 acres of timberlands in the first quarter and plans to sell 42,000 acres.
"The deteriorating economy is injecting a degree of uncertainty to our expectations for the coming quarter," Howatt said, adding high energy costs show no signs of decreasing and fiber costs are at their highest level in more than 10 years. "We expect second-quarter results to improve to break-even levels from a first-quarter loss, excluding timberland sales gains and charges related to the Groveton Mill closure."
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