updated 4/23/2004 9:52:27 AM ET 2004-04-23T13:52:27

International Paper Co. reported first-quarter profit jumped 66 percent Friday as strong sales and price increases for its products offset higher costs.

The world's largest paper company, which has mills in Jay and Bucksport, Maine, said earnings for the January-March period were $73 million, or 15 cents per share, compared with $44 million, or 9 cents per share, for the same period last year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 14 cents per share.

"I'm pleased that we were able to more than offset the continued high costs of wood and energy with a better operational performance and higher sales volumes for the quarter, particularly in uncoated free sheet, bleached board and containerboard," said John Faraci, the company's chairman and chief executive officer.

In March, IP began to see the impact of price increases in industrial packaging, uncoated free sheet, pulp and some bleached board products, Faraci said.

Revenue for the quarter was $6.4 billion, up from $6 billion a year ago.

Faraci offered an upbeat forecast for the second quarter.

"We're seeing a pickup in demand for our products in most regions of the world, and average price realizations in the second quarter should be higher," Faraci said. "This upturn, combined with lower wood costs and our continued focus on cost control, should position us to deliver a stronger second quarter."

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