International Paper Co posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday due to rising North American demand for its corrugated shipping boxes.
Box demand, which had been weak, improved during the first quarter and into April, showing signs that the economy is improving, Chief Executive Officer John Faraci said in an interview.
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"Box demand in April, looks like it's taken a turn both seasonally and in terms of economic activity, to the plus side," he said.
IP, which has a large joint venture in Siberia, is closely monitoring the tension between Russia and the Ukraine, but so far has taken no action. The declining Russian ruble actually helps IP, as the company exports pulp from its Siberian mill to China, Faraci said.
"I think our Russian business is in good shape," Faraci said, adding that IP has financing contingencies in place should any sanctions affect its access to financing for its Siberian operations.
IP, the largest North American producer of corrugated shipping boxes, reported a first-quarter net loss of $95 million, or 21 cents per share, compared with year-earlier net income of $318 million, or 71 cents per share.
The company said in January it would close its Courtland, Alabama, mill, and took a $495 million first-quarter charge.
Excluding the mill charge and other one-time items, the company posted a profit of 61 cents per share.
By that measure, analysts expected earnings of 55 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue fell 1 percent to $7.01 billion.
Shares of IP, which are down about 6 percent so far this year, closed Tuesday at $45.90.