Coillte announced its annual results last week for the financial year 2021, which saw revenue increase to a record €422m.

This was helped by exceptional global demand for sawnwood and strong demand for timber-related products in Coillte’s own panelboard mill products and Irish sawmills.

The slowdown in forestry felling licences reduced sales for part of 2021.

The company received record high prices for logs sold to Irish sawmills during the year. As a result, operating profit rebounded to an impressive €124m, having plunged from €63m in 2019 to €29m in 2020. This allowed the company to recommend “an overall dividend payment to the exchequer of €30m,” said Bernie Gray, Coillte’s chair. It represents the highest dividend paid since the company began trading in 1989.

Pricing was also influenced strongly by a global supply and demand imbalance

“During 2021, end market prices for timber and panelboard products reached record levels, driven by high demand in the construction and home improvement sectors,” said Coillte’s CEO Imelda Hurley.

“Pricing was also influenced strongly by a global supply and demand imbalance which created a series of supply challenges in key markets. When taken together, these factors resulted in Coillte achieving a record financial performance in 2021.”

Hurley said earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) “increased significantly on the previous year to €159m and we recorded operating cash of €73m”.

A €45m upgrade of Smartply’s drying plant was significantly advanced, which necessitated borrowings.

The company has a net debt of €28m but, according to the results, it “enters 2022 on strong financial footing with net cash of €31m and available debt facilities of €180m”.

Coillte’s recent announcement of a 100,000ha afforestation programme by 2050 begins with the establishment of “a new not-for-profit ‘Nature Partners CLG’ in collaboration with Forestry Partners to create new native woodlands at scale across Ireland”.