Smurfit Kappa sees growth in tough year

Smurfit Kappa shares rose nearly 2% yesterday on the back of the Dublin-based paper and packaging group reporting a 9% rise in full-year profits.

The increased profit, to €654m, came despite a challenging fourth quarter, which saw profits drop 19% year on year. Revenues for the full year rose 1% to nearly €8.2bn, while EBITDA of over €1.2bn marked a new high for the group.

A 20% increase in final dividend, to 57.6c per share, was also announced.

Chief executive Tony Smurfit said the group had faced “significant headwinds” in 2016 but still managed solid growth.

“In 2016 we have invested approximately €500m in our business, building a platform to deliver continued performance and growth. In 2017 we will continue to realise the benefits of our average annual capital spend of more than €450m over the last three years,” he says.

The group was admitted to the Ftse 100 in December. Mr Smurfit said: “Admission to the Ftse 100 is consistent with our vision of being a globally recognised and respected business delivering both secure and superior returns for all stakeholders.”

Analysts were mixed in their views of the Smurfit Kappa results.

Merrion Private said results were “somewhat disappointing” but the outlook was positive, while Davy said the 20% final dividend increase reflected confidence in the sector’s outlook.

“Smurfit Kappa’s outlook commentary should result in the recently announced price increases being successful. This will likely result in upside to earnings and cash flow forecasts,” said Davy.

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