(Adds comments, outlook)
HELSINKI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Finnish pulp and paper maker UPM on Thursday reported a smaller-than-expected rise in fourth-quarter profit, citing a disappointing performance at its specialty papers division.
Fourth-quarter operating profit excluding one-offs rose 10 percent from a year ago to 404 million euros ($465 million), thanks to higher prices across its portfolio, but still missing analysts’ average expectation of 420 million in a Reuters poll.
UPM said it expected its business performance to continue at a “good level” in 2019, backed by growth in global economy.
“There are, however, significant uncertainties related to this, including trade negotiations between China and the U.S., growth in China, the undefined nature of Brexit and political uncertainties in several countries,” Chief Executive Jussi Pesonen said in a statement.
“These issues may have an impact on the global economic growth and on UPM’s product and raw material markets during 2019,” he said.
Pesonen also said margins continued to be under pressure in the Asian fine paper business as destocking in the value chain continued to pressure prices and pulp costs remained high.
UPM said it expected favourable demand continuing for most business lines, but said demand decline was expected to continue for UPM Communication Papers.
“In the beginning of the year 2019, pulp prices are expected to be lower and graphic paper prices in Europe are expected to be higher than in Q4 2018,” it said.
Shares in UPM were 0.8 percent lower by 0806 GMT. ($1 = 0.8688 euros) (Reporting by Tarmo Virki Editing by Keith Weir and Jane Merriman)