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Western Forest Products reports $23.6 million in first quarter net earnings

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VANCOUVER - Western Forest Products Inc. (TSX:WEF) says its first-quarter net income amounted to $23.6 million, or six cents per share, compared to $22.8 million, or a nickel a share, in the same period last year.

The Vancouver-based company says lumber revenues improved by 11 per cent over the first quarter of 2013, supported by higher prices and a favourable exchange rate.

The $23.6 million in net income was drawn from $246 million in sales _ up from $233.8 million in sales recorded in the same period a year ago.

The company says the pace of new home construction in the U.S. during the quarter was slower than expected. The severe winter left the pace of U.S. home construction flat, reducing lumber demand across North America.

It says poor weather, coupled with supply chain disruptions, including the Vancouver port strike and the lack of railcar availability, has negatively impacted shipments across the industry.

In the medium term, says Western Forest, it expects growth in the U.S. new home construction segment and continued growth in demand for forest products in China.

But in the longer-term, constrained supply due to B.C.'s mountain pine beetle infestation and an increase in worldwide demand for lumber are expected to lead to improved pricing for the company's logs and lumber.

On April 30, the Western Forest sawmill in Nanaimo, B.C. was the scene of a shooting incident in which two workers were killed and two others wounded.

"The loss of two colleagues has been devastating and Western is caring for the families impacted by this tragedy," said president and CEO Don Demens.

"We are grateful for the tremendous support we have received from our customers, business partners and the communities on Vancouver Island. This support has reaffirmed for everyone at Western that we are a strong and resilient company."

A former sawmill employee, Kevin Addision, has been charged in the shooting and remains in custody pending his next court appearance on May 13.

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