Feb. 06 -- Clearwater Paper's 2013 earnings received a boost, thanks to an IRS position on a tax credit program that has long since expired. The wood-products company reported net earnings of $107 million for last year, compared with $64 million in 2012. The figures were in a Wednesday news release issued after stock market trading closed with the company finishing at $57 per share. While both its paperboard and consumer products turned in solid performances, one of the biggest differences in the two years involved the 2009 alternative fuel mixture tax credit program, said company spokesman Matt Van Vleet in Spokane. Clearwater Paper received $117 million from the one-year program because it used black liquor, a byproduct of papermaking, to create steam and electricity for its operations. The company had kept reserves, not knowing if the IRS would tax the income, Van Vleet said. "The IRS released a letter that gave direction that leads us to consider this as nontaxable." The roughly $60 million that had been held back was included in fourth-quarter earnings of 2013, according to Wednesday's news release. Clearwater Paper plans to share its recent profits with shareholders. It announced a buy back of as much as $100 million in company stock on Wednesday. The new initiative comes on the heels of Clearwater Paper finishing a share buy back where it repurchased 2.1 million shares at an average cost of $48.31 per share, according to Wednesday's news release. Such buy backs benefit stock owners by reducing the number of shares in the market, something that theoretically increases the value of the remaining shares, Van Vleet said. Clearwater Paper executives and board members had also considered issuing the first dividend in the company's five-year history before deciding the stock buy back was the "most prudent way to return cash to shareholders," said John Hertz , chief financial officer, who spoke in a conference call broadcast on the Internet Wednesday following the release. One of the considerations was that Clearwater Paper is still in the processing of introducing its new high-end toilet paper that it makes in Shelby, N.C. . A dividend, stock buy back or "some of both" are possibilities for 2015, Hertz said. The trends that helped Clearwater Paper in 2013 are expected to continue, said CEO Linda Massman . A growing market for paperboard, is being fueled partly by some users switching away from foam. On the tissue side demand is increasing industry-wide, especially for the types of private-label brands Clearwater Paper provides to grocery stores and other clients, Massman said. The strides Clearwater Paper made in 2013 came as the company experienced its best safety record ever with an incident rate significantly lower than comparable industry performance, Massman added. Williams may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2261. ___ (c)2014 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho) Visit the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho) at www.lmtribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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