2018 is already behind us, and a new year has started with new challenges, but also with the most positive wishes. Last year was good overall for UPM Timber because demand for sawn timber was high in all our main markets and the price trend was positive. The first three quarters went very well, but after the fourth quarter, with decreasing Chinese and Egyptian market conditions, a small degree of uncertainty eventually hit other markets as well. The development of the last quarter of the year was no longer positive, but we made it through with flying colours. In UPM Timber, we can see that the negative trend is fortunately temporary, although it’s likely to continue into the early part of 2019. We anticipate that the market situation will begin to clear during Q1, or at the latest Q2. From these starting points, I believe that this year will also be good, and having this more positive outlook will carry us all over the more difficult months.
Our competitive sphere has changed permanently; so far, we Finnish sawyers have competed against each other and the Swedes. Now, however, it is clear that the Russian sawmills have become our main competitor, especially in the Chinese market. They have also recently increased their deliveries to Europe and Egypt. The Russians have invested heavily in new production technology, they have grown considerably in terms of product quality, and have also stepped up their delivery reliability. In addition, they have the advantage of cheap raw material and a weak ruble, with which Russians have made quite good results in recent years and gained market share.
The competition is good, and at UPM Timber we are always prepared for it. We need to constantly closely monitor the development of the sawmill industry around the world, market trends and opportunities, as well as continuously develop our customer-oriented approach in collaboration with our customers. We do not budge from our customer promise, "We want to be your no. 1 choice". On the contrary, we will constantly develop new service concepts that will benefit you, the customer. Hopefully we can continue to improve your satisfaction with UPM Timber as a leading supplier of sawn timber products.
I wish you all the best of success for 2019!
Director, Sales and Supply Chain