The South American market offers the best chance of sustaining profitability over the next one to three years, according to 60% of forest, paper and packaging (FPP) executives polled by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

A fifth said China was the most likely market to offer profitability, with a minority saying Russia, Europe and the US remained strong. Canada has the least chance of sustaining profitability, according to the results.

Other questions in the online poll included when will major consolidation occur, with 40% saying in one to three years and 30% in three to five years. On profits, a third said energy costs had significantly hit the bottom line, 30% said exchange rates and 15% cited fibre supply and transport costs.

“The most significant finding is that an overwhelming majority of industry insiders believe that competitive factors will continue to favour companies in Latin America, at least over the medium-term,” said Clive Suckling, PwC’s global FPP leader.

“This contrasts with the relatively gloomy prognosis for traditional regions, suggesting few expect any near-term change in the fortunes of companies in North America and Europe.”

Mr Suckling added the poll had closed just ahead of the most recent set of banking woes in the US, “leaving open the question of whether the flames of the credit crisis will spread more widely or whether a turning point is being reached”.