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Sappi Profit Declines After Maintenance Closures, Strong Dollar

Sappi Ltd., the world’s largest producer of dissolving wood pulp, said third-quarter profit declined 76 percent after planned maintenance shutdowns in all three of its operating regions.

Profit was $4 million in the three months through June, compared with $17 million a year earlier, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement on Friday. Revenue fell 14 percent to $1.27 billion. Excluding special items, earnings per share were unchanged at 2 cents.

A mill upgrade in Austria and planned annual maintenance shutdowns in North America, Europe and South Africa reduced profit by about $27 million compared with a year earlier, Sappi said. A stronger U.S. dollar also hurt profit margins in the Europe and North American business.

Sappi is seeking to lower costs and cut debt as it focuses on pulp and packaging products for growth amid softening demand for graphic paper. Net debt stood at $1.92 billion at the end of June, down from $2.29 billion the previous year.

Sappi’s shares declined 0.6 percent to 43.88 rand as of 9:16 a.m. in Johannesburg. The stock has gained 4 percent this year, compared with a 5.3 percent increase in the FTSE/JSE Africa All-Share Index.

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