Time to empty the notebook on Louisiana-Pacific's fourth-quarter conference call from Friday. CEO Curt Stevens and CFO Sally Bailey entertained a number of questions related to their plans to ramp up production, so let's start there.
LP's big plant in Clark County, Ala., is on track for a second-quarter restart, and Stevens said he's been "a little bit positively surprised" by how well the hiring has gone. Of the people the company has brought on, about 30 percent have worked in Clark County in the past and 70 percent have worked for LP there or somewhere else. In British Columbia, fourth-shift hiring efforts at the Peace Valley factory — which LP is in the process of acquiring in full — are going well, although Stevens said LP leaders are regularly "pinged" by oil sands companies for technical staff.
There's been a good bit of industry chatter of late about how prices for LP's oriented strand board products will trend in 2013, so it was no surprise that Stevens was asked Friday when pricing "will come back to earth." Stevens gave one of the better not-so-fast comments we've heard in a while, saying that the manufacturing capacity he and his peers are adding isn't all going to come online quickly or at once. Restarting new plants takes a good bit of time and with the housing construction market expected to keep strengthening, that should "keep operating ratios at a pretty high level," he added.
But, asked analyst Steve Chercover at D.A. Davidson, OSB prices above $300 per 1,000 square feet shouldn't be considered the new normal, right?
"I can’t tell you the new normal," Stevens responded. "We set prices every day with our customers."
Investors have digested LP's Q4 report and the call went well, it appears. As of 11:50 a.m., they had upped the stock (Ticker: LPX) 3.7 percent to $21.20. No doubt also helping were price target hikes from both UBS — to $15 from $13 — and RBC Capital Markets — from $23 to $25.
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