Improved trading in mechanical wood processing and slimmed down financial expenses helped timber, forestry and paper giant Metsälitto to a 2.7% rise in operating profits for the first nine months of 2002.

Earnings were €184m, but after one-off items and taxes, profits fell back to €114m, a 1.4% increase on last year.

Finnforest went back into profit at €26.6m in the nine-month period, reversing a loss of €5.9m last year.

The company expects to remain marginally in profit by the end of the year, boosted by the acquisition of Moelven in July, internal efficiencies and a better performance in sawmilling.

Business in engineered wood and solid wood improved. Sales in Britain were also up, helped by the new I-joist factory.

The Metsälitto group predicted by year-end, its forestry business would be unchanged on last year, while paper operations at M-real and pulp at Metsä-Botnia would be weaker