Unit cash conversion costs for the fourth quarter, 2012 remained constant as compared to the same period, 2011 despite improved operating rates, primarily due to the start-up costs related to the new production line at Grand Forks. Unit costs of logs consumed increased 4% quarter-over-quarter for 2012 as compared to 2011, resulting from higher log prices and higher logging, hauling and stumpage costs in the B.C. Interior, slightly mitigated by reduced export pressure on the Olympic Peninsula which provided more affordable supply.
Compared to the same period in 2011, B.C. log production fell by 47,000 cubic metres or 6% as the B.C. Coast continued to see hangover from the extended fire season.
Export taxes declined by $0.5 million for the fourth quarter, 2012 as compared to the same period, 2011 despite an increase of 6.5 million fbm, or 12%, in Canadian shipments to the U.S. As a result of the lift in commodity lumber prices in the latter half of 2012, the export tax paid under the SLA declined to 5% for October, 2012 and 10% for November and December, 2012, as compared to a 15% export tax rate in the fourth quarter, 2011.
Depreciation of plant and equipment for the fourth quarter, 2012 increased by $0.8 million in comparison to the same period in 2011, largely driven by increased operating rates.
Road amortization and depletion expense for the fourth quarter of 2012 increased by $1.3 million or 21% compared to the same quarter, 2011 as a result of a shift on the B.C. Coast to logging on more difficult and higher cost terrain.
Corporate and Other
Selling and administrative costs for the fourth quarter, 2012 remained constant compared to the same quarter, 2011. Fourth quarter, 2012 LTIC expense increased almost sevenfold over the fourth quarter, 2011, reflecting changes in the estimated fair value of the share-based compensation plans. Though not a direct correlation, the movement in the Company's share price had the greatest impact on this expense, as reflected by increases in the closing share price of 35% for the fourth quarter, 2012 (Quarter 4, 2011 - 8%).
Finance costs increased by $0.3 million for the fourth quarter, 2012, compared to the same period, 2011 resulting from an overall increase in average debt levels. Other foreign exchange gains (losses) fell $1.0 million when compared to the fourth quarter, 2011 as volatility of the Canadian dollar and the timing, rates and amount of forward foreign exchange contracts impact these gains and losses.
Other income for the fourth quarter of 2012 and 2011 was negligible, consisting primarily of minor surplus equipment and scrap sales.
The Company's income tax expense, negligible for the fourth quarter, 2012 and 2011, excludes the benefit of $1.0 million related to the reduction of certain unrecognized deferred income tax assets arising from loss carry-forwards available to reduce future taxable income (Quarter 4, 2011 - $3.9 million). Although the Company expects to realize the full benefit of the loss carry-forwards and other deferred tax assets, due the cyclical nature of the forest products industry and the economic conditions over the last several years, the Company has not recognized the benefit of its deferred tax assets in excess of its deferred tax liabilities, with one minor exception.
The Company generated cash of $13.4 million from operations, before changes in working capital, during the fourth quarter, 2012, an improvement of $8.8 million over the fourth quarter, 2011. Higher domestic shipments and North American sales prices, lower export taxes and higher operating rates drove cash earnings for the fourth quarter, 2012.
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