On a positive note, the company’s Improvement 2003 programme is yielding the expected results, and had an effect for the year of NOK955m before tax.
The board has proposed an unchanged dividend of NOK 6 per share.
Jan Oksum, Norske Skog president and CEO, says, "Even in a year characterised by weak markets, we maintained strong operating margins by comparison with our competitors and a solid financial position.
"This primarily reflects the results of our improvement programme and better exchange rate trends compared with 2002. We are due to reach the target for the improvement programme by the end of 2004, with a lasting effect of NOK2bn compared with 2002.
"We’re well equipped to meet new growth in all parts of the world, but are uncertain when markets in Europe and North America will start to pick up. Strict cost discipline remains necessary to improve the company’s profitability."
Prices in Europe, Norske Skog’s biggest market, declined during 2003 by seven to 11 per cent for newsprint and about three per cent for magazine paper.
Australian prices fell by three-four per cent, and South Korea also experienced some decline. Otherwise, prices in North America and Asia spot prices improved slightly. Demand is expected to increase in Asia and South America, and the Australasian market should remain positive and stable.