West Fraser Timber Co has reported losses for the third quarter and for the first nine months of the year.

In the third quarter the company made a loss of C$198m on sales of C$679m, compared with a loss of C$2m on C$848m sales in the same period of 2008. For the nine months from January-September, the loss was C$321m on sales of C$1.9bn, compared with a C$68m loss on sales totalling C$2.5bn a year earlier.

Although timber prices rose slightly, the benefit was reduced as the Canadian dollar strengthened and the lumber division made a third-quarter loss of C$53m and nine-month loss of C$168m. The company says its sawmills in Canada and the US operated at a capacity 13% lower than the third quarter of 2008.

In contrast, the company’s panels segment contributed third-quarter profits of C$12m, and nine-month profits of C$6m. Demand for plywood in particular was stimulated by Canada’s improving housing market. Some improvement was also noted in the US housing market.

Despite the losses, chairman, president and CEO Hank Ketcham remained positive.

“Our strong balance sheet, conservative business philosophy and long-standing emphasis on controlling costs will serve us well as we work through this difficult time,” he said.