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Catalyst Paper Record Greater Net Loss in First Quarter

April 28, 2010
RICHMOND, BC—April 28, 2010—Catalyst Paper (TSX:CTL) has recorded a net loss attributable to the company of $44.1 million ($0.12 per common share) on sales of $273.3 million for the first quarter of 2010. The net loss increased from $35.8 million in the preceding quarter ($0.09 per common share), due to declining specialty printing paper prices and additional production curtailment. Higher restructuring, input and maintenance costs further impacted Q1 results.

Before specific items, Catalyst posted a net loss attributable to the company of $37.6 million ($0.10 per common share), in contrast to $21.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 ($0.06 per common share). Specific items after-tax included restructuring costs of $10.1 million and bond exchange-related costs of $5.9 million, offset by a foreign exchange gain on long-term debt of $11.7 million.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for the first quarter were negative $16.2 million, compared with positive EBITDA of $14.1 million in the preceding quarter. Before specific items, EBITDA deteriorated to negative $2.1 million from positive $15.5 million in the prior quarter. The Q1 operating loss of $48.9 million, compared to a $41.1 million loss in Q4, reflected lower EBITDA.

"We saw some recovery in print advertising from the very low levels of a year ago and as a consequence, paper demand is up slightly," said President and CEO Richard Garneau. "Pulp strengthened as various events combined to drive price recovery and we could see a more extended pulp up-cycle. Markets for all products going forward will be influenced by industry re-start decisions and operating rates."

Paper demand remained well below pre-recession levels, and benchmark prices dropped further for coated, uncoated and directory grades. North American newsprint consumption continued to decline, and although offshore exports helped boost the benchmark price over the preceding quarter, it remained well below the level of a year ago. Continued pulp price recovery was driven in part by production interruptions in Chile and other regions, and in late March the company announced it would restart the second pulp line at Crofton in the second quarter.

In light of weak paper markets, the three paper machines at the Elk Falls division remained indefinitely curtailed. The # 1 newsprint machine at Crofton, seasonally curtailed in December, was indefinitely idled in January, and as a result, the Paper Recycling division, which supplied de-inked pulp to Crofton, was curtailed in February. Total first-quarter production curtailments represented 14 per cent of specialty paper capacity, 52 per cent of newsprint capacity, and 36 per cent of market pulp capacity.

Restructuring costs during the quarter increased due to severance of some 300 employees who became eligible for and elected this option. Most had been laid off as a result of the Elk Falls curtailment. In light of some progress in tax-related discussions with Campbell River, Catalyst put forward a proposed restart plan for two specialty machines at Elk Falls to the hourly workforce based, in part, on achieving competitive labour costs at that mill.


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