Weyerhaeuser flagged a boost from efforts to exploit the
reviving US housing market as the timber giant, whose woodland portfolio is the
size of the Republic of Ireland, unveiled its strongest revenues in more than
The 112-year old group unveiled revenues up 24% at $2.0bn
for the October-to-December quarter, the highest figure since the third quarter
of 2008, and above the $1.82bn that analysts had expected.
Underlying earnings near-doubled to $143m, equivalent to $0.26
a share, also ahead of forecasts from Wall Street, which had pencilled in a $0.21-a-share
The improvement came at the end of the year in which the group,
based in Washington state, "began to realise the results of our work to
position the company to capture the benefits of an improving [US] housing market,"
Weyerhaeuser chief executive Dan Fulton said.
"As a result our bottom line improved significantly," he
said, claiming shareholder returns for 2012 of 50%, "one of the best in the
industry", helped by a hike in the dividend.
Weyerhaeuser relied on sales of land for a doubling to $81m
in fourth-quarter profits at its real estate division.
However, the unit also faced a less profitable mix of homes
in closings which leapt 45% year on year to 842 units, with actual properties
sold rising 38% to 561 units.
The wood products division, whose output of the likes of
oriented strand board is used largely in housebuilding, returned to the black
with a fourth-quarter profit of $38m, helped by "stronger than expected market
conditions" which boosted sales prices and volumes.
Sales of lumber rose 18.8% by volume to 1.03bn board feet,
and of oriented strand board itself by 30% to 670m square feet.
While sales from the cellulose fibres division were depressed
by "operational issues that are now resolved", and look set to be weighed down
by "increased maintenance expenses" in the current quarter, the group was more
upbeat on prospects for its other divisions.
The wood products unit should see "significantly higher
earnings", thanks to continued rises in sales volumes, while the timberlands division
is set for the extension of a rising trend in selling prices for logs, both on
domestic and export markets.
The Weyerhaeuser data come the week after data showed US
housing starts soaring 12.1% last month to 954,000, seasonally adjusted.
The figure came in nearly 70,000 units ahead of forecasts,
and up from the 851,000 houses and apartments in November.
Census Bureau statistics on Friday, showing that US family new home sales fell 7.3% in December, to a seasonally-adjusted 369,000, were less well received by markets.
Shares in Weyerhaeuser - which owns, controls or manages some 17m acres of timberland in North America - closed 1.7% lower at $30.95 in New York.