Press release
24 Apr 2024, 7:00 CET

Interim report January–March 2024

Improved sequential performance in the wake of positive market sentiment

Key highlights

•    Adjusted EBITDA sequentially up more than 50% 

•    Strengthened order books in both regions and improved capacity utilization in North America

•    Sequentially 6% higher sales volumes (approx.+50 ktons) 

•    Positive pricing and favorable mix changes compared to the fourth quarter

•     Divestment of idled mill assets in the US

Quarterly data

•    Net sales decreased by 9% to SEK 10,423 million (11,495)

•    Adjusted EBITDA* SEK 1,166 million (1,484)

•    Adjusted EBITDA margin 11% (13)

•    Operating profit SEK 448 million (806)

•    Net profit SEK 313 million (639)

•    Earnings per share SEK 1.26 (2.57)

Outlook for Q2

•    Improved market conditions for both regions

•    Increased sales prices expected to offset higher input costs mainly driven by higher pulpwood prices

•    Maintenance shutdowns estimated to have a cost impact of SEK 525 million


Comments by the CEO

The first quarter result was a clear sequential improvement. As we expected, the improvement was mainly derived from stronger sales volumes and stronger price positions within liquid packaging board. We also experienced favorable product mix changes in both regions. Despite headwinds of higher costs for energy, logistics and fiber in Europe, the Group’s EBITDA margin strengthened to 11% in the quarter.

The market sentiment clearly improved during the quarter in both regions. Order books have strengthened, and we see broad-based price increase announcements. Over the past quarter, we adjusted quickly and produced at full speed on all machines in Europe and significantly decreased our production curtailments in the US. I am in particular proud of how we successfully managed to solve the challenging logistical issues, enabling us to capture the market opportunity. We are also pleased with the clearly improved profitability in North America to 16% EBITDA margin. With overall cost stability, we are excited about the future cost-leading production opportunities in this region.

However, we need to be careful to draw the conclusion that the underlying consumption has picked up significantly. The combination of longer delivery times due to Red Sea difficulties and strikes in Finland both have an impact on the supply situation. As we learned from 2021/2022, such effects are temporary and will likely lead to stock build-up. Keeping a close eye on inventory levels throughout the supply chain will thus be critical.

With the industry returning to normalized production levels and a tight supply situation, prices for fiber in the Nordics continue to increase. We expect to reach all time high prices in the second quarter on Swedish-sourced pulpwood. We do not foresee a reversal of this tight fiber supply situation unless we see structural changes in the industry. In this continuous difficult market context, it is imperative that we focus on items that we have in our control. Several price increases have already been implemented, and we will need to do more. On top of this, we will continue to pursue efficiencies in all corners of our operations as well as keeping strict cost discipline for 2024.

Wisconsin Rapids mill assets, which have been idled since 2020, will be divested to focus on core business objectives, optimize resources, and align with our long-term strategy to drive sustainable growth. We are convinced that this is the best solution for all stakeholders. At the same time, we are fully committed to the ownership and operation of the Wisconsin Rapids converting facility, as it plays a key role in the sheeting of graphic paper and cartonboard. Our US facilities are well located to ensure that we can deliver our products quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively to the customers.

Our updated greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are ambitious and have been submitted to the Science Based Target initiative for verification. The long-term goal is to achieve a carbon footprint at our US mills that is best in class in North America and as close as possible to the excellent performance we have in Europe. We will also continue to eliminate the remaining fossil emissions in Europe. Billerud has always been a leading sustainability player in our industry, and we continue to be committed to lead the change.

For 2024 our top three priorities remain intact:

- Proceed with the preparations for our strategic investment projects. We continue to explore options for the US transformation and BCTMP (bleached chemi-thermo-mechanical pulp) project together with Viken Skog.   

- Execute on our updated European strategy to adapt to a persisting high-cost situation and to improve profitability. This means execution of concrete actions to strengthen operational mill performance and secure cost competitive wood supply in the Nordics through partnerships and expanding our field wood purchases. We will also increase fiber efficiency by using more CTMP (chemi-thermo-mechanical pulp) and optimize the use and mix of fiber. 

- Deliver on our efficiency enhancement program. We have good momentum and are on track to deliver SEK 700 million incrementally in 2024. Workforce reductions are progressing as planned and we expect to reach most of the estimated SEK 300 million impact this year, all included in the efficiency enhancement program target. 

The first quarter was in summary a promising start to 2024. Although market sentiment has turned more favorable, we are facing an unprecedented situation in the Nordic wood market. We need to continuously perform at our best to navigate successfully through the difficult conditions.

Ivar Vatne
President and CEO

First quarter

Sales and results

Net sales for the first quarter declined by 9% to SEK 10,423 million (11,495). Currency changes had a positive impact of 2%. The organic* and currency-neutral net sales declined by 9%, mainly due to lower sales prices and reduced sales volumes. The Group’s sales volumes totaled 921 ktons (943), negatively impacted by curtailments of production in North America.

Adjusted EBITDA amounted to SEK 1,166 million (1,484), corresponding to a margin of 11% (13). The Group’s result decreased mainly because of lower sales, only partly offset by reduced costs for raw materials, logistics and energy.  

No items classified as affecting comparability impacted the result in the first quarter (–).

Market development and outlook

In the first quarter, market conditions improved for both regions and all products. Price increases within the liquid packaging board segment were implemented as of January 1, and market prices for pulp increased. For all other segments, prices decreased compared to the previous quarter.

For the second quarter 2024, market conditions are expected to continue to improve even if a clear recovery of the underlying paper and packaging consumption is assessed to be uncertain. In Region Europe, increased prices on most segments are expected to largely offset higher input costs, particularly for Nordic pulpwood. In Region North America, input costs and sales prices for graphic and specialty paper are expected to be unchanged, while pulp prices are expected to increase.

Events in the quarter

From January 1, Billerud changed the name of the operating segment “Solutions & Other” to “Other” as a consequence of the divestment of Managed Packaging and other packaging solutions businesses during 2023. What is included in the operating segment “Other” is described on page 20.

In February, a refreshed strategy for the European region was adopted. It focuses on strategic initiatives to be taken from 2024 to 2026. In addition to the maintained priority on safety, the updated strategy focuses on securing cost-competitive fiber supply and improving efficiency of existing assets.

In March, Billerud agreed on the divestment of the idled Wisconsin Rapids mill assets to the global private equity company Capital Recovery Group, LLC for non-paper and pulp manufacturing uses. Billerud retains the converting facility in Wisconsin Rapids and is committed to continue with the operation to convert rolls of its graphic paper and cartonboard into sheets. The result effect recorded in the first quarter was SEK -6 million. The transaction will be completed in the second quarter and will have a positive cash flow effect of around SEK 60 million.

In the first quarter, Billerud initiated a multi-year program to harmonize its ways of working. Preparations were made for introduction of a global IT platform that supports agile decision-making in the entire business flow, from sourcing, sales and order planning to customer deliveries and payments.

Events after the quarter

The convening notice to the 2024 annual general meeting, published on 12 April, included the nomination committee’s proposal that Andreas Blaschke, with 20 years of experience from executive board and management positions within the Mayr-Melnhof Group, be elected as new board member.
Jan Åström has declined re-election to the board. Regi Aalstad, Florian Heiserer, Magnus Nicolin, Victoria Van Camp and Jan Svensson are proposed to be re-elected as board members, and Jan Svensson is proposed to be re-elected as board chairman.  


* For key figures and a reconciliation of alternative performance measures including adjusted EBITDA, adjusted operating profit, adjusted EBITDA margin, adjusted operating profit margin, adjusted ROCE and interest-bearing net debt/adjusted EBITDA, see pages 14-16.


For further information:

Andrei Krés, CFO, +46 8 553 335 72
Lena Schattauer, Director Investor Relations, +46 8 553 335 10


This information constituted inside information prior to publication. This is information that Billerud AB (publ) is obliged to make public pursuant to the EU Market Abuse Regulation. The information was submitted for publication, through the agency of the contact persons set out above, at 07.00 CEST on 24 April 2024.