MeadWestvaco’s 3Q profit jumps on higher sales

MeadWestvaco chief executive John A. Luke Jr. announced a deal this week to sell the company’s vast forestland holdings to Plum Creek Timber Co.

MeadWestvaco Corp. said its third-quarter profit jumped nearly 57 percent as sales grew and it lowered costs, but earnings and revenue fell short of expectations.

The Richmond, Va.-based packaging company reported earnings today of $80 million, or 44 cents per share, up from $51 million, or 28 cents per share, a year ago.

On an adjusted basis, MeadWestvaco earned 49 cents per share.

Revenue increased nearly 3 percent to $1.43 billion.

Analysts expected earnings of 50 cents per share on revenue of $1.46 billion, according to FactSet.

Sales rose 2 percent to $260 million at Meadwestvaco’s North Charleston-based specialty chemicals business, which makes tree-based additives for asphalt, adhesives, inks and oilfield drilling, land sales and industrial packaging. That unit’s profit rose 6 percent to $66 million.

Business also was higher in the Summerville-based land management division. Sales for that segment jumped 80 percent last quarter to $63 million, and its profit tripled to $33 million from a year ago.

Sales fell in food and beverage packaging, as well as home, health and beauty packaging.

MeadWestvaco operates in 30 countries and has customers in more than 100 nations.

“Good progress with our profitable growth strategies across our businesses helped us deliver improved sales and earnings in an environment of still sluggish consumer demand and increased volatility in emerging markets,” said John A. Luke Jr., chairman and chief executive officer.

The company announced Monday that it’s found a buyer for its U.S. forestland. Plum Creek Timber Co. will pay $934 million in a deal that includes about 501,000 acres in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Seattle-based Plum Creek is a timber real estate investment trust.

The companies also formed a joint venture involving 109,000 acres near Charleston. Plum Creek will invest $152 million in the new real estate development partnership.

Additionally, MeadWestvaco and Plum Creek will sign a 25-year fiber supply deal for MeadWestvaco’s Covington, Va., paperboard mill.

The transactions are expected to close by the end of the year.

MeadWestvaco said it was looking for buyer for its land holdings earlier this year.