Norbord expects to maintain stable dividend amid signs of housing recovery

TORONTO – Norbord Inc. (TSX:NBD) says it expects to maintain its quarterly dividend at 60 cents this year — despite a recent weakening of North American prices for its construction materials.

The wood panel producer adopted a variable payout last April, which rises or falls depending on the market cycle. At least one analyst had expected Norbord would cut the dividend later this year.

Norbord, which reports in U.S. dollars, says it earned $2 million or four cents per diluted share in its fourth quarter compared with a profit of $38 million or 76 cents per diluted share in the final three months of 2012.

Excluding one-time items, the company said it earned $9 million for the quarter compared with $38 million a year ago.

Sales in the quarter were $302 million, down from $322 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 as lower oriented strand board prices more than offset higher shipment volumes.

Norbord said North American OSB shipments increased seven per cent overall in 2013 compared with the previous year.

In the fourth quarter, shipments were 14 per cent higher than in the same quarter of 2012 and in line with the third quarter, after the company restarted a mill in Texas in mid-2013.

However, prices softened in the second half of 2013 after peaking at a nine-year high last March.

Norbord said Thursday the North Central OSB benchmark price averaged US$245 per thousand square feet in the fourth quarter, down $7 from the third quarter and $87 from a year earlier.

It said the South East benchmark OSB price averaged US$192 per million square feet in the last three months of 2013, down $15 from the prior quarter and $104 from the fourth quarter of 2012.