International Paper Reports Earnings Drop

By Bill Dries

Memphis-based International Paper Co. posted net earnings for the third quarter of $237 million compared to $468 million the same period a year ago, a 49 percent drop.

The $237 million profit amounts to 43 cents a share compared to $1.08 a share a year ago.

Excluding one-time expenses and charges, per share earnings fell from 81 cents to 75 cents.

The results, reported Thursday, were lower than expected and leaders of the paper and packaging giant attributed that to weaker sales of consumer packaging in Asia and North America.

Third-quarter revenues were $7 billion, a 5.9 percent increase from a year ago.

International Paper CEO John Faraci characterized the numbers as “strong results despite a challenging macroeconomic environment.”

Before the earnings call, Faraci told Reuters, “The world seems to be moving in slow motion. It’s still moving ahead, but it’s definitely in slow motion.”

Lower volume was the “primary headwind” for the quarter, according to International Paper Chief Financial Officer Carol Roberts.

The day before the earnings report, International Paper announced it has formed a joint venture with Jari Cellulose, a Brazilian corrugated packaging producer that is part of the Grupo Orsa company. IP’s investment in the venture is $470 million.

The joint venture includes Jari’s three containerboard mills and four box plants, which will be spun into a newly formed company that IP owns 75 percent of. The company will be separate from Jari’s forestry and pulp businesses.

The joint venture is International Paper’s entry into corrugated packaging in Brazil.

“It’s a market that we know well,” said Tim Nicholls, senior vice president of printing and communications papers. “And it allows us to expand a core IP business into a growing market where we already have a meaningful presence with our paper business.”

Faraci said IP had been looking at Orsa “for quite a while.”

Nicholls said the “case for growth” in Brazil is the expansion of the country’s middle class and “room for growth” in per capita consumption. Nicholls also cited the country’s role as host of the World Cup in 2014 and Rio de Janeiro hosting the Summer Olympics in 2016.