Given the Group’s good profit and strong financial position, the Board of Directors proposes that the dividend per share increases from SEK 8 to SEK 8.5, and a payment of an extra dividend of SEK 3.
Holmen has developed strongly by creating added value from the forest and land we own. To further increase our competitiveness and strategic capabilities, we are now combining paperboard and paper into a single business area. Through the business combination, we are focusing our business model on four distinct business lines, i.e. forestry, hydro and wind power, woodworking industry and process industry operations.
In the fourth quarter, the Group’s profit decreased to SEK 714 million due to a maintenance shutdown and weaker market conditions. Despite a weaker market, competition for logs and pulpwood remained strong. The profit from forest, at SEK 384 million, was in line with the previous quarter, but significantly higher than before wood prices began to increase just over a year ago. The price increases that we have seen in the wood market have supported transaction prices for forest properties at a time of rising market interest rates. The book value of our forest, based on property transactions for the last three years, increased by SEK 4 billion to SEK 56 billion in 2023.
Demand for consumer paperboard was low during the quarter but prices were essentially stable. Demand for paper decreased and prices dropped slightly from a high level. Paperboard made a SEK 169 million loss due to a major maintenance shutdown and production curtailment. In the paper business area, we are continuing to gain market share and made a high profit of SEK 429 million,despite lower prices and higher energy costs. By gathering our process industry expertise together in one business area we are improving our ability to develop our business in consumer paperboard and transport packaging, as well as books and magazines.
There is strong interest in building in wood, but demand is currently weak because of high interest rates. Wood product prices decreased somewhat during the quarter, which, when combined with a shutdown for rebuilding at Iggesund Sawmill, resulted in a SEK 89 million loss from wood products. As building materials increasingly bear their real climate cost, the benefits of building in wood are increasing, giving us good prospects for continued business development.
The energy situation in Europe has improved thanks to ample gas reserves, reduced production in energyintensive industries and mild weather, which has lowered electricity prices on the continent. In the Nordics however, electricity prices increased in the fourth quarter due to cold weather and disruptions to nuclear power production. Profit from energy increased to SEK 213 million due to high production of plannable and stabilising hydro power. We are in the final phase of evaluating the construction of Blisterliden wind farm and are now starting work on Stormyrberget wind farm together with Vattenfall. An investment decision could be made on this project in 2025.
With our large forest holdings as a foundation, we grow houses while also harnessing the energy that blows over the treetops and flows in the rivers. We then make renewable packaging, magazines and books from the residual forestry products. Our strong financial position equips us well for a world that is striving towards a sustainable society; one in which raw materials and energy are in short supply.
CEO and President, Holmen
January 31, 2024