Sappi's Saiccor plant in KwaZulu-Natal, where upgrading of the woodyard has started.Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - Diversified woodfibre company Sappi said on Monday its headline earnings per share edged up to 18 US cents in the quarter ended March, compared with 16 cents during the same period last year.

The company said operating performance in the quarter was ahead of expectations and the group generated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) excluding special items of US$211 million, an improvement over the same quarter in 2017.

Profit for the period increased from $88 million to $102 million due to positive special items in the quarter mainly related to a profit on sale of its corporate office building in South Africa.

Sappi said demand for dissolving wood pulp remained strong and pricing improved steadily during the quarter. However, average dollar prices for the quarter were still below those of the equivalent quarter a year ago.

Viscose staple fibre prices remained under pressure due to the commencement of significant additional capacity in China, despite higher prices for competing textiles such as cotton and polyester.

- African News Agency (ANA)