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

Hope-raised NHL official among BC Hockey Hall of Fame inductees

Jay Sharrers officiated 1,419 regular NHL games, plus Stanley Cup finals and Olympics

How would crowded Fraser Valley hospitals deal with patient surge? Officials won’t say

Amid coronavirus case and crowding issues, health officials won’t say where more patients would go

Sasquatch Mountain Aussie Day celebration raises $800

Proceeds of bikini runs, toonie tosses and more go to wildfire victims

Artists at Work featured at Hope Arts Gallery in February

Melange 2020 will showcase myriad talents by local artists until Feb. 28

DNA confirms SUV struck and killed Abbotsford cyclist in 2015, court hears

Kerry Froese operated company that owned vehicle that struck and killed Ronald James Scott in 2015

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Party bus door fault for years ahead of Langley woman’s death: Coroner

Tuesday report classifed Chelsea James’ death accidental, but was critical of bus inspection process

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Bystander who tried to help dog being attacked not liable for its death: B.C. tribunal

Owner of dog killed tried to get $5,000 in damages from man who tried to save it

INFOGRAPHIC: See how fast your B.C. city grew in 2019

The province’s fastest-growing municipalities were located on Vancouver Island

Landowner hearings begin for Trans Mountain expansion in Alberta

Detailed route talks start in Spruce Grove, in B.C. communities soon

Most Read