Despite slow economic growth in the main markets for the Finnish forest industry, both sawn wood and plywood production showed increases on last year, reports the Finnish Forest Industries Federation.

Plywood production remained brisk during the third quarter and was 12% higher than last year. Production in January-September totalled 900,000m3, up 4% on the year before.

Sawn wood production was lower during the third quarter than during the first and second as a result of seasonal factors. However, the production volume of 2.8 million m3 was up 12% on the year before. Production for January-September totalled 9.7 million m3, up more than 2% on the year before.

Finnforest reports that high capacity use and efficiency-boosting measures were the primary reasons for its improved result for January to September and Moelven performed better than expected. Finnforest’s profits before extraordinary items for January to September were e4.3m – an improvement of e32.7m on the same period of 2001.

The company’s strategy is that Moelven will concentrate on the Scandinavian market while other parts of the Finnforest Corporation will focus on other regions.

UPM-Kymmene reports profits before extraordinary items of e277m for the nine months to September. Turnover in its wood products sector was about the same as for this period last year (2002: e1.1bn; 2001: e1.118bn), but profitability declined slightly because of the high cost of saw logs. Also, the profitability of plywood manufacture suffered from higher costs and falling prices.

Trading improves

The company reports that trading in wood raw material picked up in Finland during the summer following an increase in prices for pine pulpwood and a reduction in the minimum stem diameter. Wood prices at the mill gate were nevertheless still slightly below those for this period last year. Wood purchases from private forests were in line with the target and 15% up on last year.

Stora Enso reported pre-tax profits of e196.8m for the third quarter in comparison with e154.6m for the previous quarter. However, sales of timber products were down 31.2% on the previous quarter as production was disrupted by flooding in central Europe and a fire at Koski Timber Oy’s sawmill in Finland. Forest sales were unchanged.

Stora Enso North America has sold 125,000ha of forest in northern Wisconsin and Michigan to Plum Creek Timber for e151m. This forms part of Stora Enso’s planned restructuring of its ownership of forest land in Finland and the US.

Timber frame housing

Manufacturers of timber houses have been in the news recently. In the past two months, Finndomo, the largest manufacturer of houses in the Nordic region and exporting mainly to northern Europe, has won orders for its factory built houses and flats to a value of e16m. This comprises an order worth e11m for 119 houses on the outskirts of Nynäshamn, Sweden and 100 flats to a value of e5m in Bålsta on the outskirts of Stockholm.

The dwellings will be delivered in the form of modules which are prefabricated in the company’s factory in Hässleholm, Sweden. Finndomo points out that the advantages of prefabricated construction are that the risk of dampness during the construction period is minimised, the construction period is considerably shorter and there is less work on site which creates a quieter environment and less construction traffic in the area.

A total of 52 semi-detached houses are also being produced using the same prefabricated system at Kirkkonummi, near Helsinki. The order for this is worth e6m. It takes just one day to join a total of eight modules together to form a two-storey house for two families.

Crack-free walls

Another house manufacturer, Kontiotuote Oy, one of the leading manufacturers of log houses and holiday homes, has begun to use a patented method that gives virtually crack-free walls for log houses. This is something that has been in demand by a number of export customers in central Europe.

Kontiotuote has purchased a licence from VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland) for the use of the technique, which it has named Presslog. The company participated in research and development work which involved an investment of e275,000 and the technique is now being used on an industrial scale at the company’s factory at Pudasjärvi in the north of Finland.

Briefly, it involves pressing the log during the drying process more than it would shrink during conventional drying. The pressing reduces the tensile stresses on the surface of the log which normally give rise to a natural crack formation. The pressure is applied throughout the drying period which takes 13-14 days at 65O and the moisture content is reduced to around 15%.