Norbord's profitability improves30 April 2012
The profitability of Norbord’s North American operations has overtaken that of the company’s European divisions, as the US housing industry picked up in the first quarter.
The group recorded earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of US$21m and sales of US$253m. The North American operations, which have been trailing the European division’s recent stellar performance, saw its EBITDA doubled to US$14m from a year ago.
US housing starts were 20% higher in the first quarter compared to a year ago and permits were 30% higher. US single-family housing starts were 17% better – a bellwether for the OSB industry. Forecasts put 2012 housing starts at 680,000-770,000, about 11-26% higher than last year’s 610,000 starts.
North American OSB shipments grew 5% from the previous quarter.
Norbord said European panel markets showed surprising strength despite negative economic news.
Average European panel prices softened slightly compared to the fourth quarter of 2011 but remain higher than a year ago.
“After peaking mid last year, OSB prices were 7% lower than the same quarter a year ago and 5% down from the prior quarter. But chipboard and MDF are holding on to double-digit gains – 13% and 11% respectively compared to year ago.
Norbord’s panel shipments in Europe grew 11% from the previous quarter and by 3% compared to a year ago. Capacity utilisation was 95%.