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Carter Holt Harvey Announces 1st Quarter Results

Carter Holt Harvey has today announced earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) were $51 million for the three months ended 31 March 2002, the same as for the March quarter last year. Net earnings were $17 million compared to $19 million for the March quarter last year.

Chief Executive Officer, Chris Liddell, said, ” The March quarter was satisfactory given market conditions and reflects continuing improvements in most of our businesses.

“Compared with the previous December quarter, generally stronger markets for wood products and packaging, and a firmer tone to log prices were offset by weakness in export pulp and linerboard markets. The average price of Kinleith mill’s bleached kraft pulp was down 28% and linerboard was 16% lower compared to the March quarter last year. Also influencing the result was the seasonal slowdown associated with the Australasian summer break and Chinese New year.”

The March quarter also showed further progress on cash flow, lower net debt, a stronger interest coverage ratio and lower overhead costs.

Looking forward Mr Liddell sees 2002 improving, but noted the timing of recovery in key markets for the company’s products would be uneven.

“While the Japanese economy is still weak and shows few signs of improving, the Korean and Chinese economies have continued to experience robust growth. In Australia and New Zealand the level of economic growth is expected to be solid.

“Export log markets, apart from Japan, have been improving. Demand is expected to be strong in those markets although immediate price increases may be more difficult to achieve due to seasonal factors and currency movements.

“In Australia, building activity is currently strong and is expected to continue into the next quarter. The gradual decline in recent building consents figures indicate that conditions may ease during the second half of the year. However we don’t expect there will be a substantial fall in activity as happened two years ago.

““In April, our export pulp and linerboard markets showed the first tangible signs of a turnaround with some improvement in pricing expected in the June quarter.”

- ends -

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