PCA CEO Mark Kowlzan named RISI Global Containerboard CEO of the Year

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RISI, the leading information provider for the global forest products industry, today announced that Mark Kowlzan, Chairman and CEO of Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), has been named 2018 Global Containerboard CEO of the Year.

The award will be presented to Mr. Kowlzan at the RISI International Containerboard Conference on November 13, 2018 in Chicago at the Intercontinental Magnificent Mile Hotel.

The Global Containerboard CEO of the Year is nominated by a group of investment analysts and portfolio managers covering the international containerboard industry. Candidates are nominated for showing vision and leadership and achieving strong financial returns over the past year.

Analysts credited Mr. Kowlzan for delivering the highest returns for any publicly-traded containerboard/corrugated box suppliers. Under his leadership, PCA has also completed two major projects to keep the company’s integration rate the highest in the industry.

"PCA has done a good job of remaining focused and continuing to generate industry-leading margins," one analyst said. "Under Kowlzan, the company has done an impressive job of squeezing benefits from their 2013 acquisition of Boise, with cost-efficient conversions at their DeRidder, LA, and Wallula, WA, mills."

In the second quarter, PCA reported an EBITDA margin of 24.2% in containerboard and corrugated products, the highest among publicly traded North American containerboard producers. The company has achieved margins above 20% for 22 consecutive quarters, consistently higher than competitors, one analyst noted.

PCA has regularly achieved much higher than average box shipment growth, combining organic growth with targeted "bolt-on" acquisitions. Recent acquisitions have included TimBar Packaging, Columbus Container and Sacramento Container.

In the second quarter, PCA increased its box shipments 6.6% from a year ago on a per-shipping day basis, vs 0.9% growth for the overall US corrugated box industry. For the past three years (2017-2015), PCA’s grew its box shipments 4.9%/yr, vs 1.9% for the entire industry.

To supply this growing box plant system, PCA has invested in conversions of two paper machines at two former Boise mills.

PCA converted the D-3 machine at its DeRidder mill from newsprint to virgin containerboard in late 2014, with further improvements in early 2018. Continuous comprehensive optimization improvements have boosted the mill’s annual production from approximately 625,000 tons to more than 1.1 million tons/year. This year, the company is also converting a white paper/specialty machine at the Wallula mill to 400,000 tons/yr of virgin kraft linerboard in a two-stage project scheduled for completion this fall. Mr. Kowlzan, a former mill manager, has been deeply involved in the success of both conversion projects.

Since Kowlzan has become CEO in July 2010, PCA has increased its sales from $2.4 billion that year to $6.4 billion in 2017, and net income from $205 million in 2010 to $669 million last year. Earnings per share have gone from $2/share in 2010 to $6.02 (diluted, excluding special items) in 2017, with the consensus of analysts that PCA should earn around $7.90/share this year.

Since July 2010, PCA’s stock price has risen from $21/share to as high as $131/share earlier this year, before declining to $91/share on Oct. 17. Analysts note that this aligns with a general decline in containerboard stocks due to concerns about new capacity announcements.

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