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Weyerhaeuser: Victim of economy and green times | Business analysis

Federal Way-based Weyerhaeuser
Federal Way-based Weyerhaeuser's fourth-quarter loss exceeded $1 billion in 2008, according to an AP report Feb. 6.
— image credit: Courtesy of Frank Shiers

If the newspaper industry needs a stiff drink, it should grab a stool next to Weyerhaeuser. Both suffocate at the hands of two intertwined movements.

The Federal Way timber giant hemorrhages money, much like newspapers, another industry sliding down a golden banister that turns into a razor blade.

One glaring difference: Very few do what Weyerhaeuser does, so demand for its services will hold. The company's reputation stands strong. Ask any builder about the quality of Weyerhaeuser wood.

Aside from supplying lumber and logs, Weyerhaeuser also builds houses under Quadrant Homes, the company's Northwest brand. Amid the housing slump, Quadrant Homes will sell prime real estate at I-5 and 320th Street to Federal Way's fire department.

Another avenue for revenue at Weyerhaeuser involves cellulose fiber. Derived from trees, cellulose can be found in products that absorb, such as disposable diapers and alternatives to petroleum. However, the world is moving in greener and paperless directions, eager to embrace alternatives to trees.

Weyerhaeuser keeps its clients confidential, but we could safely assume that somewhere along the supply chain, the company even had something to do with the newspaper you're holding. Big-league newspapers will always strive for quality journalism — perhaps in different packaging someday, but a package nonetheless. The same goes for Weyerhaeuser. The changing times and rough economy can saw off Weyerhaeuser's branches and poison its roots, but the company remains a tower in its field. For now.

Weyerhaeuser in 2009

• Weyerhaeuser's fourth-quarter loss exceeded $1 billion in 2008, according to an AP report Feb. 6. New home sales decreased 14.7 percent in December to the slowest pace since 1963, the report said. The U.S. housing market pushed lumber prices to their worst levels in more than 20 years, with homebuilding at its weakest since 1959, the report said.

• Weyerhaeuser announced earlier this month that it will close its iLevel veneer and lumber mills in Pine Hill, Ala. The closure, effective immediately, will affect about 300 employees at that location.

• On Jan. 26, Weyerhaeuser announced the closure of two mills in Aberdeen, Wash., due to weak market conditions. The closures affected some 220 workers.

• Weyerhaeuser announced that Charles Williamson has been elected as the company board's non-executive chairman. According to AP reports, the 60-year-old Williamson will replace Steven Rogel, the current chairman set to retire April 15.

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