The first quarter of 2013 saw a widespread slowdown in industrial output and consumption in Europe. The pulp and paper sector was not immune to this trend, with significant reductions in orders and deliveries of paper.
In this particularly harsh environment, the Portucel Group recorded turnover of € 356.9 million, up by 1.1%, thanks in part to improved performance in pulp business, in terms of both quantities sold and prices, and also to an increase in the value of energy sales, as a result of including the business of Soporgen – Sociedade Portuguesa de Produção de Electricidade e Calor, SA, the company operating the natural gas cogeneration plant at the Figueira da Foz industrial site, in which the Group increased its holding to 100% as from January this year.
Over the course of the quarter, despite expectations to the contrary, the trend in the bleached eucalyptus pulp (BEKP) market was positive, with two price rises and a third increase announced in April, due to take effect in May. As a result, the FOEX – BHKP index in USD for the first quarter stood at a level close to 13% higher than the price recorded in the first quarter of 2012. After exchange rate adjustment, the growth in Euros is approximately 12%. In terms of the sales volume, the trend was also positive, with the Group recording an increase of over 4%. Rising prices, combined with growth in volume sold, led to significant growth in the value of pulp sales in comparison to the first quarter of 2012.
In the uncoated woodfree paper (UWF), as already indicated, the business environment was harsher, with the main market indicators all showing substantial reductions in both consumption and the level of orders. Consequently, although paper output held steady in relation to the same period in the previous year, the sales volume was down by around 5%. As happens at the end of every year, the Group ended 2012 with very low levels of stocks at its mills and in the supply chain, meaning that stocks had to be replaced, which also had an effect on the sales volume. In terms of prices, the Foex B-copy index edged downwards over the period, standing on average at a level of 0.5% lower than the average for the first quarter of 2012, and down over the period by 1.6%. The Group's average price performed better, practically unchanged over the quarter.