Clearwater Paper has reported financial results for the fourth quarter and full year of 2017.
The company reported net sales of $436.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, up 2.6% compared to net sales of $425.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2016. Net earnings determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, for the fourth quarter of 2017 were $80.9 million, or $4.88 per diluted share, compared to net earnings for the fourth quarter of 2016 of $9.3 million, or $0.56 per diluted share.
The increase in net earnings primarily consisted of a benefit related to recent tax law changes. Excluding this tax benefit and certain other non-core items identified in the attached Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures, fourth quarter 2017 adjusted net earnings were $14.4 million, or $0.87 per diluted share, compared to fourth quarter 2016 adjusted net earnings of $13.8 million, or $0.82 per diluted share.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, were $52.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to $49.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2016. Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was $57.5 million, up 6.3% compared to fourth quarter 2016 Adjusted EBITDA of $54.1 million.
The $3.4 million increase in Adjusted EBITDA in the fourth quarter of 2017 was primarily a result of higher paperboard pricing and volumes, improved consumer product mix, and lower general maintenance costs.
Additional factors for the increase included lower wage and benefits expense resulting from warehouse automation projects at several of the company's facilities, the shutdown of two higher cost tissue machines at the company's Neenah, Wisconsin mill at the end of 2016 and the closure of the company's Oklahoma City converting facility in March 2017. These factors were partially offset by lower non-retail tissue shipment volumes and higher input costs for pulp, transportation and energy.
Clearwater Paper president and CEO Linda Massman said: "We had a strong finish to 2017 due to improved operating efficiencies resulting from the completion of our three-year strategic capital projects, including warehouse automation and the continuous pulp digester at our Lewiston, Idaho mill.
"We also had increased paperboard sales and shipments and ultra-quality tissue sales, partially offset by very competitive market conditions in the retail industry and higher transportation costs.
Net sales in the Consumer Products segment were $234.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, down 3.1% compared to fourth quarter 2016 net sales of $242.1 million. This decrease was due primarily to lower parent roll sales resulting from the shutdown of the two higher cost paper machines at the Neenah, Wisconsin mill at the end of 2016 and a 3.3% decrease in retail tons sold in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Clearwater Paper manufactures quality consumer tissue, away-from-home tissue, parent roll tissue, bleached paperboard and pulp at manufacturing facilities across the nation.
The company is a premier supplier of private label tissue to major retailers and wholesale distributors, including grocery, drug, mass merchants and discount stores. In addition, the company produces bleached paperboard used by quality-conscious printers and packaging converters, and offers services that include custom sheeting, slitting and cutting. Clearwater Paper's employees build shareholder value by developing strong customer partnerships through quality and service.