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JOHN LEHMANN/GLOBE AND MAIL/JOHN LEHMANN

Softwood lumber producer, Canfor Corp., posted a profit in the fourth quarter as sales to China offset weak demand from a struggling housing sector in the United States.

Canfor also said its president and chief executive officer, James Shepard, would retire and be replaced by Don Kayne at the company's annual meeting on May 5.

The company said its net income attributable to equity shareholders was $30.7-million (U.S.), or 9 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31. That compared with a loss of $17-million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.

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Sales were $629-million, up from $549.6-million.

Industry analysts had predicted, on average, that Canfor would report earnings of 8 cents per share. Their individual forecasts ranged from a profit of 3 cents a share to 16 cents.

Canfor, which has sawmills in Western Canada and the southeastern United States, was one of the first Canadian forestry firms to tap into growing North American lumber sales to China.

Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison has been slowly increasing his stake in Canfor in recent years and now owns more than 35 per cent.

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