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Stora Enso’s year 2000 EPS at record EUR 1.32, up 48%

Press release from the issuing company

Sales for the year totalled EUR 13,017.0 million (EUR 10,635.7 million), up 22% on 1999. The acquisition of Consolidated Papers boosted sales by EUR 740.1 million from 1 September onwards. The operating profit before non-recurring items rose to EUR 1,925.6 million, which was 15% of sales and 49% up on the previous year. The profit before tax and minority interests before non-recurring items was EUR 1,653.3 million, up 59%. Earnings per share (basic) rose to EUR 1.32 (EUR 0.89) and cash earnings per share to EUR 2.61 (EUR 2.09), in both cases before non-recurring items. The improvements are attributable to higher prices, increased delivery volumes, favourable trends in exchange rates and improved efficiency, which more than offset high recovered paper prices, the paper industry strike in Finland in April and lower delivery volumes in the autumn due to production curtailments. Jukka Härmälä, CEO of Stora Enso, regards the full year results as good. He notes that there was a clear improvement in earnings per share and the financial targets for the year have been met in full. The return on capital employed (ROCE) was 16.8%, compared with the target of 13% over the cycle. The debt/equity ratio was well within the target at 0.59, despite the share buy backs and the Consolidated Papers acquisition. Capital expenditure amounted to EUR 769.3 million, less than the depreciation and consistent with the Group’s objective that capital expenditure should not exceed depreciation. The Stora Enso synergies totalled EUR 240 million, compared with the target of EUR 170 million for the year 2000. The savings achieved during the year through the productivity programme totalled EUR 75 million. The last quarter operating profit was reasonably good at EUR 440.7 million, although 21% less than in the previous quarter, which had been Stora Enso's best ever. The decrease was caused by production curtailments of about 280,000 tonnes in pulp, paper and board due to the weaker markets and seasonal and investment stoppages. Currently, the prospects look weaker for the full year 2001 than for the previous year owing to uncertainty, especially in coated fine paper and pulp. However, the market for publication papers should be stable because the balance between capacity and demand is better.  Despite the economic slowdown in the USA and Asia, if GNP grows as forecast, underlying demand should still be healthy. Stora Enso intends to continue to control capacity utilization to adjust to market demand. Stora Enso believes that its market position and balance sheet are strong enough to withstand any turbulence and uncertainty in the market. Dividend raised The Board of Directors proposes to the Annual General Meeting on 20 March 2001 that the dividend be EUR 0.45 per share, a payout ratio of 34%. Demand for paper and board products increased during the first three quarters in Western European and US markets, but slowed down in the fourth quarter owing to destocking and softening of the US economy. During the fourth quarter Stora Enso took 280,000 tonnes of production downtime due tothe weaker market situation especially in coated fine paper and pulp, seasonal and investment stoppages. Downtime taken in North America accounted for 95,000 tonnes of the curtailments. Paper and board deliveries totalled 12,971,000 (11,995,000) tonnes. Deliveries of market pulp outside the Group amounted to 1,059,000 (1,251,000) tonnes, and pulp purchases from outside sources 782,000 (750,000) tonnes. Sawn timber deliveries were 4,880,000 (4,637,000) m3.

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