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SMURFIT-STONE REPORTS 4th QUARTER 2005 RESULTS

 

CHICAGO, January 25, 2006 – Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation (Nasdaq: SSCC) today reported a net loss available to common stockholders of $92 million, or $0.36 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2005.  These results include:

  • Previously announced litigation settlement charges of $36 million pre-tax, or $0.09 per diluted share,
  • Restructuring charges of $24 million pre-tax, or $0.06 per diluted share, related to facility closures,
  • A gain of $8 million pre-tax, or $0.02 per diluted share, associated with revisions to certain employee benefit programs,
  • A $0.01 per diluted share gain to record the impact of a non-cash foreign currency translation adjustment, and
  • A tax benefit of $10 million, or $0.04 per diluted share, related to:
    • A $34 million tax provision for the repatriation of foreign earnings under the American Jobs Creation Act, and
    • A $44 million reduction to deferred taxes due principally to the favorable resolution of the Internal Revenue Service examination for the years 2002 and 2003. 

Fourth quarter 2005 results compare to a net loss available to common stockholders of $9 million, or $0.04 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2004. That quarter included an impairment charge of $0.19 per diluted share, a loss from the early extinguishment of debt of $0.03 per diluted share, a non-cash foreign currency translation loss of $0.03 per diluted share, and a tax benefit related to the resolution of certain tax matters of $0.04 per diluted share.  

 

For the full year 2005, the company reported a net loss available to common stockholders of $339 million, or $1.33 per diluted share, compared to a net loss available to common stockholders of $57 million, or $0.23 per diluted share, in 2004.

 

Fourth quarter sales were $2,047 million, down five percent from the fourth quarter of 2004.  Sales for the full year were $8.4 billion, compared to $8.3 billion in 2004. 

 

Commenting on operating results, Patrick J. Moore, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said, “Market conditions were unfavorable in the first half of 2005 resulting in declining containerboard and corrugated prices.  Our average box prices bottomed out in the fourth quarter reflecting decreases in the published containerboard price index earlier in the year. While we contended with higher energy, transportation and fiber costs throughout 2005, the impact was most pronounced in the fourth quarter following recent spikes in energy prices and the impact of hurricanes in the Southeast. Despite unfavorable operating results, the momentum did change in the quarter as market conditions began to improve.”

 

The containerboard and corrugated containers segment reported an operating loss of $5 million in the fourth quarter 2005 compared to operating profit of $31 million in the third quarter and $126 million in the prior year period.   Operating profit for fiscal year 2005 was $183 million compared to $314 million in 2004.  Lower containerboard production, declining containerboard and corrugated container prices and inflationary cost pressures drove lower operating results for both the fourth quarter and full year 2005.

 

The consumer packaging segment’s fourth quarter 2005 operating profit of $20 million improved $3 million from the prior year, while down $5 million sequentially.  Full year 2005 operating profit of $83 million was up $2 million compared to 2004.  Folding carton shipments during the fourth quarter and full year 2005 were essentially flat with the prior year while prices continued to steadily improve.  The business made solid progress with cost reduction efforts despite inflationary cost pressures.

 

Total debt at year-end 2005 was $4,571 million, up $73 million from the prior year.  

 

Commenting on the company’s outlook, Moore said, “Market conditions have finally begun to improve.    Packaging demand has rebounded, our inventories are at their lowest level in years, and we are implementing previously announced price increases and cost reduction initiatives.  These conditions should lead to better comparisons as we move through the year; however, we do not expect meaningful sequential earnings improvement in the first quarter of 2006 due to seasonally lower volume, continued inflationary cost pressures, and the timing of certain employee benefit costs.  

 

The company faces critical challenges and opportunities as a result of dramatic shifts in the market that call for a profound change at Smurfit-Stone.  We recently announced key strategic initiatives to address market realities and are fully engaged in executing this plan. These initiatives include changes in key operating management positions, actions to drive lower costs in our manufacturing system and achieve specific cost and performance targets, and kicking off a customer-focused approach to the marketplace that should provide the foundation for long-term improvement in our results.”

 

Smurfit-Stone management will discuss results via live webcast, including a slide presentation, at 8:00 a.m. CT (9:00 a.m. ET) on January 25.  The webcast will be archived to the company’s website, www.smurfit-stone.com.

 

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          Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation (Nasdaq: SSCC) is the industry’s leading integrated manufacturer of paperboard and paper-based packaging. Smurfit-Stone is a leading producer of containerboard, including white top linerboard and recycled medium; corrugated containers; point-of-purchase displays; multiwall and specialty bags; and clay-coated recycled boxboard; and is one of the world’s largest collectors and marketers of recovered fiber. In addition, Smurfit-Stone is a leading producer of solid bleached sulfate, folding cartons, flexible packaging, and labels. The company operates approximately 240 facilities, located primarily in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and employs approximately 33,000 people.

          This press release contains statements relating to future results, which are forward-looking statements as that term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  Actual results may differ materially from those projected as a result of certain risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to changes in general economic conditions, continued pricing pressures in key product lines, seasonality and higher recycled fiber and energy costs, as well as other risks and uncertainties described in “forward-looking statements” in the company’s annual report on form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2004, as updated from time to time in the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

 

FULL TEXT WITH TABLES

 


Contact:   

Tim McKenna (investors) 312-580-4637

John Haudrich (investors) 314-746-1266

Tom Lange (media) 314-746-1236

Mylène Labrie (Canada) 514-864-5103

 
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