Paper & packaging - Weak box demand, but cost tailwind and resilient pricing

Davy Research
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US box demand fell 6.8% in Q4 2022 and 3.8% in 2022 overall (Source: FBA). Expect a similar c.3% 2022 fall in European box volumes. While subdued box demand has led to falling containerboard prices, easing energy and old corrugated containers (OCC) prices are 2023 cost tailwinds, partially offsetting the profit impact of lower box demand and prices. A key takeaway from recent company discussions and results is the resilience of box prices. Expect focus on box maker pricing power at forthcoming results from Smurfit Kappa Group (February 8th), Mondi (February 23rd) and DS Smith (March 9th). For more on European makers, including profit sensitivities to box volume/pricing, see our sector report Subdued box demand but positive sentiment inflection (January 23rd). Smurfit Kappa remains our top European packaging pick.