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Mercer International Inc. Reports Strong 2011 First Quarter Results of Operating EBITDA of Euro 50.8 Million ($69.5 Million) and Net Income of Euro 29.1 Million ($39.8 Million) or Euro 0.66 ($0.90) Per Basic Share

NEW YORK, May 5, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Mercer International Inc. (Nasdaq:MERC) (TSX:MRI.U) today reported strong results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2011. Operating EBITDA in the first quarter of 2011 was €50.8 million ($69.5 million), compared to €31.8 million ($44.0 million) in the first quarter of 2010 and €64.6 million ($87.8 million) in the fourth quarter of 2010. Operating EBITDA is defined on page 4 of this press release and reconciled to net income (loss) on page 7 of the financial tables in this press release.
/ Source: GlobeNewswire

NEW YORK, May 5, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Mercer International Inc. (Nasdaq:MERC) (TSX:MRI.U) today reported strong results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2011. Operating EBITDA in the first quarter of 2011 was €50.8 million ($69.5 million), compared to €31.8 million ($44.0 million) in the first quarter of 2010 and €64.6 million ($87.8 million) in the fourth quarter of 2010. Operating EBITDA is defined on page 4 of this press release and reconciled to net income (loss) on page 7 of the financial tables in this press release.

During the quarter, we generated total revenues of €224.1 million ($306.6 million), compared to total revenues of €180.3 million ($249.5 million) in the comparative quarter of 2010. We reported net income of €29.1 million ($39.8 million), or €0.66 ($0.90) per basic share, for the first quarter of 2011, compared to a net loss of €7.5 million ($10.4 million), or €0.21 ($0.29) per basic share, in the first quarter of 2010 and a net income of €35.3 million ($48.0 million), or €0.84 ($1.14) per basic share in the fourth quarter of 2010.

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(1) Average Federal Reserve Bank of New York noon spot rate over the reporting period.

(2) Average Bank of Canada noon spot rate over the reporting period.

President's Comments

Mr. Jimmy S.H. Lee, President and Chairman, stated: "We are pleased with the strong first quarter as, despite a weakening U.S. dollar, we achieved Operating EBITDA of €50.8 million and net income of €29.1 million. Operating EBITDA declined from the record level in the prior quarter, primarily as a result of lower sales volumes resulting from very high shipments in the prior quarter and delays in shipping in the current quarter, the 6% decline of the U.S. dollar versus the Euro during the current quarter and a non-cash stock compensation charge of €2.1 million."

Mr. Lee continued: "Overall, the NBSK pulp market remains well balanced with NBSK inventories around 24 days. During the first quarter of 2011, NBSK list prices increased by $30 per ADMT in Europe and North America to end the quarter at $980 per ADMT and $990 per ADMT, respectively. In China, list prices increased by $50 per ADMT to end the quarter at $890 per ADMT. Such price increases were largely offset by the weak U.S. dollar. Subsequently, in April, due to continuing favorable market conditions and the weak U.S. dollar, producers implemented a further $30 per ADMT price increase, increasing prices to $1,010 per ADMT in Europe, $1,020 per ADMT in North America and $920 per ADMT in China, respectively."

Mr. Lee continued: "We are also continuing to implement high return capital projects designed to enhance our mills' technical capabilities and improve their operating results. During the first quarter of 2011, our Celgar mill finalized a contribution agreement with the Government of Canada for approximately C$9.7 million of grants to improve its fiber line and oxygen delignification process and reduce production costs. The mill also qualified for a C$1.6 million grant under the Canadian government's Transformative Technologies Program to install a new generator acid purification system designed to reduce the mill's chemical costs. As a result of such governmental support, we expect both these projects, when completed, to provide very attractive rates of return."

Mr. Lee concluded: "With our world-class mills and current strong pulp pricing and demand, we are well positioned to generate strong returns and continue to enhance value for our stakeholders in 2011."

Three Months Ended March 31, 2011 Compared to Three Months Ended March 31, 2010

Total revenues for the three months ended March 31, 2011 increased to €224.1 million ($306.6 million) from €180.3 million ($249.5 million) in the same period in 2010. Pulp revenues for the three months ended March 31, 2011 increased by approximately 23% to €210.5 million from €171.1 million in the comparative period of 2010, due to higher pulp prices, partially offset by a weaker U.S. dollar. Revenues from the sale of excess energy increased by approximately 51% in the first quarter to a record €13.7 million from €9.1 million in the same quarter last year, primarily as a result of energy sales from the Celgar Green Energy Project in 2011.

Pulp production increased to 358,557 ADMTs in the current quarter, from 329,455 ADMTs in the same quarter of 2010, primarily due to only two days of scheduled maintenance downtime at our Stendal mill in the current quarter, compared to ten days at Stendal in the first quarter of 2010.

Pulp sales volume increased to 348,995 ADMTs in the current quarter from 332,869 ADMTs in the comparative period of 2010, primarily as a result of stronger demand. Average pulp sales realizations increased by approximately 17% to €593 per ADMT in the first quarter of 2011, compared to €507 per ADMT in the same period last year, primarily due to higher pulp prices. 

Costs and expenses in the first quarter of 2011 increased to €187.5 million from €162.2 million in the comparative period of 2010, primarily due to higher fiber costs.

On average, our per unit fiber costs in the quarter increased by approximately 20% from the same period in 2010, primarily due to low harvesting activity in Germany as a result of the downturn in the lumber industry which has been compounded by demand for fiber from the European wood pellet and particle board industries. As a result, our German mills have been required to source fiber outside their traditional fiber baskets. We currently expect our overall fiber costs to remain stable at these levels in the short- to mid-term.

For the first quarter of 2011, operating income increased by approximately 103% to €36.6 million from €18.0 million in the comparative quarter of 2010, primarily due to higher pulp prices.

Interest expense in the first quarter of 2011 decreased to €15.9 million from €16.4 million in the comparative quarter of 2010, primarily due to reduced levels of debt associated with the Stendal mill.

Our Stendal mill recorded an unrealized gain of €12.2 million on our interest rate derivatives in the current quarter, compared to an unrealized loss of €6.5 million in the same quarter of last year. We recorded a foreign exchange gain on our debt of €1.1 million in the first quarter of 2011 compared to a loss of €5.2 million in the same period last year.

In the first quarter of 2011, the noncontrolling shareholder's interest in the Stendal mill's income was €4.5 million, compared to a loss of €3.7 million in the same quarter last year.

In the first quarter of 2011, Operating EBITDA increased by approximately 60% to €50.8 million from €31.8 million in the first quarter of 2010. Operating EBITDA is defined as operating income (loss) plus depreciation and amortization and non-recurring capital asset impairment charges. Management uses Operating EBITDA as a benchmark measurement of its own operating results, and as a benchmark relative to its competitors. Management considers it to be a meaningful supplement to operating income as a performance measure primarily because depreciation expense and non-recurring capital asset impairment charges are not an actual cash cost, and depreciation expense varies widely from company to company in a manner that management considers largely independent of the underlying cost efficiency of their operating facilities. In addition, we believe Operating EBITDA is commonly used by securities analysts, investors and other interested parties to evaluate our financial performance.

Operating EBITDA does not reflect the impact of a number of items that affect our net income, including financing costs and the effect of derivative instruments. Operating EBITDA is not a measure of financial performance under GAAP, and should not be considered as an alternative to net income or income from operations as a measure of performance, nor as an alternative to net cash from operating activities as a measure of liquidity. Operating EBITDA has significant limitations as an analytical tool, and should not be considered in isolation, or as a substitute for analysis of our results as reported under GAAP. For a reconciliation of net income (loss) attributable to common shareholders to Operating EBITDA, see page 7 of the financial tables included in this press release.

We reported net income attributable to common shareholders of €29.1 million, or €0.66 per basic and €0.52 per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2011, which included non-cash unrealized gains of €12.2 million on the Stendal interest rate derivatives and a €1.1 million non-cash foreign currency translation gain on our debt, partially offset by a non-cash charge for stock compensation of €2.1 million. In the first quarter of 2010, we reported a net loss attributable to common shareholders of €7.5 million, or €0.21 per basic and diluted share, which included non-cash unrealized losses of €6.5 million on the Stendal interest rate derivatives and a non-cash foreign exchange loss of €5.2 million on our debt.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

The following table is a summary of selected financial information for the periods indicated:

As at March 31, 2011, we had approximately €26.4 million and C$35.0 million available under our Rosenthal and Celgar facilities, respectively. During the first quarter of 2011, we repaid and discharged €30.4 million of debt primarily by redeeming the balance of our 9.25% 2013 senior notes of approximately €15.2 million ($20.5 million) and repaying €14.6 million of principal under our Stendal mill's loan facility. At March 31, 2011, the principal amount outstanding under the Stendal loan facility was €486.1 million. In addition, in the first quarter of 2011, we reduced borrowings under our Celgar mill's revolving credit facility by €14.7 million (C$20.0 million).

As at March 31, 2011, we had outstanding €26.1 million in 2012 convertible subordinated notes which are redeemable by us commencing July 15, 2011. We currently expect to give notice of their redemption in the second quarter of 2011.

Restricted Group

The following table is a summary of selected financial information for the Restricted Group for the periods indicated.

Earnings Release Call

In conjunction with this release, Mercer International Inc. will host a conference call, which will be simultaneously broadcast live over the Internet. Management will host the call, which is scheduled for Friday, May 6, 2011 at 10:00 AM (Eastern Daylight Time). Listeners can access the conference call live and archived through June 6, 2011, over the Internet at or through a link on the Company's Investors/News Releases page at http://www.mercerint.com/s/NewsReleases.asp. Please allow 15 minutes prior to the call to visit the site and download and install any necessary audio software. A replay of this call will be available approximately two hours after the live call ends until June 6, 2011 through a link on the Company's Investors/News Releases page at http://www.mercerint.com/s/NewsReleases.asp.

Mercer International Inc. is a global pulp manufacturing company. To obtain further information on the company, please visit its web site at .

The Mercer International Inc. logo is available at

The preceding includes forward looking statements which involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties which may cause our actual results in future periods to differ materially from forecasted results. Among those factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are the following: the highly cyclical nature of our business, raw material costs, our level of indebtedness, competition, foreign exchange and interest rate fluctuations, our use of derivatives, expenditures for capital projects, environmental regulation and compliance, disruptions to our production, market conditions and other risk factors listed from time to time in our SEC reports.

 

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(1) Operating EBITDA does not reflect the impact of a number of items that affect our net income (loss) attributable to common shareholders, including financing costs and the effect of derivative instruments. Operating EBITDA is not a measure of financial performance under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States, and should not be considered as an alternative to net income (loss) attributable to common shareholders or income (loss) from operations as a measure of performance, nor as an alternative to net cash from operating activities as a measure of liquidity. Operating EBITDA has significant limitations as an analytical tool, and should not be considered in isolation, or as a substitute for analysis of our results as reported under GAAP.
 

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(1) For the Restricted Group, net income (loss) attributable to common shareholders and net income (loss) are the same.

(2) Operating EBITDA does not reflect the impact of a number of items that affect our net income (loss) attributable to common shareholders, including financing costs and the effect of derivative instruments. Operating EBITDA is not a measure of financial performance under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States, and should not be considered as an alternative to net income (loss) attributable to common shareholders or income (loss) from operations as a measure of performance, nor as an alternative to net cash from operating activities as a measure of liquidity. Operating EBITDA has significant limitations as an analytical tool, and should not be considered in isolation, or as a substitute for analysis of our results as reported under GAAP.
 

CONTACT: APPROVED BY: Jimmy S.H. Lee Chairman & President (604) 684-1099 David M. Gandossi Executive Vice-President & Chief Financial Officer (604) 684-1099