A general view of the Mondi paper factory is seen in Merebank in Durban.

Johannesburg - Mondi, South Africa’s biggest packaging and paper company, said first-quarter earnings advanced 13 percent as demand for consumer packaging rebounded.

Adjusted operating profit for the three months through March rose to 183 million euros ($251 million) from 162 million euros a year earlier, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement today.

Sale volumes were little changed, it said.

“Consumer Packaging performance has improved from a weak fourth quarter of 2013 benefiting from an improved product mix, despite constrained demand and the phasing out of mature products in the films and components segment,” Mondi said.

An improving packaging market will help Mondi offset lower European prices for key paper grades, except recycled containerboard, and currency costs tied to volatility in the ruble.

For 2014, the company expects maintenance shutdowns to cut operating profit by as much as 60 million euros.

“The trading environment remains mixed,” the company said.

“As anticipated selling prices for a number of the group’s key paper grades are currently below those of the prior year. However, fundamentals in our core markets remain generally solid and price increases in certain grades are under discussion.”

Mondi shares have advanced 0.2 percent this year, compared with 6.4 percent gain in the 166-member FTSE/JSE Africa All Shares Index, valuing the company at 87 billion rand ($8.4 billion). - Bloomberg News