West Fraser says worst of its B.C. mill cuts done after wave of curtailments

Many companies in B.C.’s lumber industry has cut back and closed mills in recent month

Mill cutbacks in B.C. are still happening, but West Fraser Timber Co Ltd. said Friday that the worst of the pullback is behind it.

The company, like many in B.C.’s lumber industry, has cut back and closed mills in recent months in response to limited log supplies and a plunge in lumber prices from record highs last year.

Canfor, for example, announced late Thursday it was indefinitely suspending operations at its Mackenzie sawmill and permanently cutting a shift at its Isle Pierre mill to reduce output

For its part, West Fraser CEO Ray Ferris said the company’s already announced cuts should put it on a more stable footing in the province going forward.

“From a strategic standpoint, much of our heavy lifting in British Columbia is now behind us,” Ferris told a conference call Friday to discuss the company’s latest financial results.

READ MORE: B.C. town declares financial crisis after sawmill closure leaves 230 workers jobless

West Fraser announced plans late last year to cut shifts at its mills in Quesnel, Fraser Lake, and in the last quarter announced it would also cut a shift at 100 Mile House and close its mill in Chasm in response to the squeeze on margins. The permanent reductions totalled about 614 million board feet.

“These permanent reductions, coupled with the impact of the temporary curtailments in the first half of 2019 by approximately 250 million board feet, have been disruptive, costly, and extremely difficult for our employees, our log contractors, our suppliers and our communities,” said Ferris, who stepped into the chief executive role July 1.

The shift in fortunes compared with last year were clear in West Fraser’s results, which showed it lost $17 million, or 25 cents per share for the quarter ending June 30, compared with earnings $397 million or $5.19 a share last year.

The results were also well below analyst expectations of adjusted earnings of nine cents per share according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Paul Quinn, characterizing the second quarter as a “ferris wheel of issues, said lumber earnings were below his expectations, made worse by worse-than-expected export duties of $51 million.

While there is no quick recovery expected in B.C., West Fraser said its fortunes are looking brighter in the U.S. south that it started expanding into 15 years ago in the height of B.C.’s mountain pine beetle outbreak. The region now accounts for over 70 per cent of its lumber production.

“Going forward, we expect a less disruptive half across many of our businesses, particularly in the U.S. south,” said Ferris.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Decline of Canadian manufacturing hurts men, according to new study

A five per cent drop in manufacturing drops the weekly wages of men by at least 6.9 per cent

Number of U-Hauls entering Victoria plummeted in 2019

Data compiled from two million one-way U-Haul transactions

Esquimalt explores creating portage beach for choppy Gorge waters

The portage beach would add safety to the Victoria Waterways Loop

Six months to Francophone Games, 600 volunteers needed

Online applications open on Jan. 14

Tech consortium invests $25 million into four University of Victoria research projects

Investments come with goal of developing, implement technologies created by Canadians

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

How to beat Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year

Multiple factors can play a role in seasonal depression, says Fraser Health psychiatrist

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Most Read