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Potlatchdeltic Corp (PCH) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

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Potlatchdeltic Corp (NASDAQ: PCH)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 2, 2021, 12:00 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning, my name is Christian and I'll be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the PotlatchDeltic Fourth Quarter 2020 Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] After the speakers' remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Thank you.

I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Jerry Richards, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, for opening remarks. Sir, you may proceed.

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Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you Christian. Good morning and welcome to PotlatchDeltic's fourth quarter 2020 earnings conference call. While he is a familiar face to you, this is Eric Cremers' first earnings call as President and Chief Executive Officer.This call will contain forward-looking statements. Please review the warning statements in our press release, on the presentation slides and in our filings with the SEC concerning the risks associated with these forward-looking statements. Also, please note that a reconciliation of non-GAAP measures can be found on our website at www.potlatchdeltic.com.

I'll now turn the call over to Eric for some comments and then I will cover our fourth quarter results and our outlook.

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Jerry. Jerry mentioned, this is my first earnings call as the company's Chief Executive Officer. I want to start by thanking Mike Covey, who retired after being our CEO for 14-years and is now continuing with the company as our Executive Chairperson.

PotlatchDeltic is a very different company today due to his leadership. Over that time we converted to a REIT, we spun-off our pulp and paper assets, we improved the performance of our core businesses and we completed a very successful merger with Deltic Timber. Today, we have high quality assets, a winning strategy that is well aligned with industry fundamentals, and investment grade balance sheet and a strong commitment to increasing shareholder value over the long-term through disciplined and opportunistic capital allocation decisions. I worked very closely with Mike in the 14-years that I've been with the company. He was an excellent mentor and our philosophies are well aligned. I do not anticipate any significant changes to our strategy going forward.

Now turning to our 2020 results. 2020 was a phenomenal year by virtually every measure. We generated adjusted EBITDA of $382 million in 2020, which is a record since we elected REIT status in 2006. Furthermore, all three of our business units posted record profitability in 2020. I want to thank our employees for their performance, flexibility, creativity and continued focus through the COVID pandemic. Our outstanding 2020 results are attribute to a group committed to operating at the highest level.

Our wood products segment generated $176 million of adjusted EBITDA in 2020. Our employees strong resolve and focus on operating safely allowed us to take advantage of robust demand and historic lumber prices. And in fact, both our Bemidji, Minnesota and our Waldo, Arkansas sawmills had stellar safety performance going incident free in 2020.

On the operational front we shipped just under 1.1 billion board feet of lumber and completed virtually all of our capital projects on time and under budget, despite the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic. Safety and managing the risks presented by the pandemic remained our top priorities.

Our Timberland segment generated $183 million of adjusted EBITDA in 2020. Indexed Idaho sawlog prices hit record levels in the second half of the year and our southern team did a good job catching up the harvest shortfall caused by customer mill curtailments in the second quarter. Timberlands harvested 6 million tons for the year, which was our plan at the start of the year and is a new annual record.

Our Real Estate segment generated adjusted EBITDA of $87 million in 2020. The team successfully closed the sale of 72,000 acres in Minnesota to the Conservation Fund for nearly $48 million. Our partnership with the Conservation Fund has been a catalyst, which will ultimately conserve approximately 200,000 acres in Minnesota for various conservation purposes. Fourth quarter sale is a significant milestone in our long-term strategy to sell Minnesota land at a meaningful premium.

On the development side of our real estate business, sales activity in our Chenal Valley Master Planned Community in Little Rock fared much better than we expected when the COVID pandemic began. We sold 138 residential lots and completed a commercial sale during the year.

Looking to 2021, housing fundamentals remained stronger than at any point since the great financial crisis. This has created an exceptional lumber demand environment, and we expect that lumber demand will continue to grow in 2021. US housing starts increased to 1.6 million units on a seasonally adjusted basis and total permits exceeded 1.7 million units in December. Single family starts were 1.34 million units in December, which is the highest level since September 2006.

On an unadjusted basis single family starts in December increased 30% year-over-year and this is important to lumber demand as it more than made up for a decline in unadjusted multifamily starts, because each single family home utilizes three times more lumber than does a multifamily unit. Many industry pundits including some on the call today are using the phrase super-cycle to refer to the current single family cycle and associated lumber demand and frankly we concur with that view. Massive underbuilding since the great financial crisis, record low inventories of homes for sale, historically low mortgage rates and millennials entering their prime home buying years set the stage for this fundamental improvement in the housing cycle.

Additionally, a shift from urban to suburban living appears to be positively affecting housing demand for homebuilders reported order growth of 35% on average last week. Toll Brothers, one of the country's largest homebuilders, recently said that this was the best housing market they had ever seen. These factors all suggest that housing construction will remain robust for the foreseeable future.

The repair and remodel segment is also expected to continue to grow. That view is supported by the age of the US housing stock, which is now 42-years on average, high levels of home equity, the work-from-home trend and positive demand signals from the big box home supply stores like Home Depot and Lowe's.

Underlying lumber demand remains strong and lumber inventories are estimated to be at the low end of their historic range. While lumber prices could moderate later this year, we expect lumber prices to remain higher than long-term averages. This is particularly important to PotlatchDeltic given our leverage to lumber. We remained very optimistic about the setup heading into the 2021 building season.

Turning to capital allocation, we returned $123 million of cash to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases in 2020. We are committed to growing the dividend sustainably and we increased the dividend 2.5% in the fourth quarter. The discretionary mill capital projects represent some of our highest potential returns. We plan to spend just under $30 million in our sawmills in 2021 with average expected returns on discretionary projects of 32%. Liquidity of $631 million provides a strong platform as we consider additional investments in our existing mills or accretive acquisitions.

We are interested in acquiring timberlands, mills are a combination of the two near our current operating areas. We are currently working on our 2020 Environmental Social and Governance Report and we plan to publish the report in May, PotlatchDeltic has a very strong ESG story and we are committed to do our part to mitigate climate change and continue our legacy responsibility across the ESG spectrum.

To wrap up my comments PotlatchDeltic is very well positioned to take advantage of very favorable industry fundamentals and our strong balance sheet and our liquidity provides a high degree of flexibility as we seek to maximize shareholder value.

I will now turn it over to Jerry to discuss fourth quarter results and our outlook.

Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Eric. Starting with Page 4 of the slides, adjusted EBITDA increased from $135 million in the third quarter to $164 million in the fourth quarter, leading the company record that was just set last quarter. Higher indexed Idaho log prices and a bulk land sale of Minnesota more than offset seasonally lower harvest in lumber shipment volumes.

I will now review each of our operating segments and provide more color on the fourth quarter results. Information for our timberland segment is displayed on Slides 5 through 7. The segment's adjusted EBITDA was $62.5 million in the fourth quarter, compared to $59.7 million in the third quarter. We harvested 378,000 tons of sawlogs in the North in the fourth quarter. This was down seasonally from the 555,000 tons that we harvested in the third quarter. Northern sawlog prices were 37% higher on a per ton basis in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.

The increase in sawlog prices was primarily the result of significantly higher prices for indexed sawlogs. In the South, we harvested 1.1 million tons in the fourth quarter. This volume exceeded our expectations and was slightly higher than the seasonally strong third quarter. As Eric mentioned, our southern timberlands team did a really good job making up the shortfall that occurred earlier in 2020 due to customer mill curtailments. Our southern sawlog prices were 1% higher in the fourth quarter, compared to the third quarter.

Turning to wood products on Slides 8 and 9, adjusted EBITDA was $70.3 million in the fourth quarter, compared to $81.7 million in the third quarter. Our average lumber price realizations decreased 1% from $637 per thousand board feet in the third quarter to $629 per thousand board feet in the fourth quarter. As a reminder, we had a record order file at the end of the third quarter. This move locked our lumber prices at significantly higher levels than spot prices in October. In addition, we benefited from our regional sawmill diversification as strong western dimension [Phonetic] and Lake State's stud prices due to the effect of the corruption in southern yellow pine lumber prices in the quarter.

To provide context, it's helpful to look at our lumber prices by month. Our average lumber price realizations per thousand board feet were $711 in October; $564 in November and $575 in December. Lumber shipments decreased from $291 million board feet in the third quarter to $274 million board feet in the fourth quarter. We had fewer production hours in the fourth quarter, due both to higher COVID-19 infection rates in our operating communities and more holidays. The lower production hours negatively affected fixed cost absorption. Higher index log costs in our Idaho mills also affected margins.

Moving to real estate on Slides 10 and 11, the segment's adjusted EBITDA was $56.5 million in the fourth quarter, compared to $13.4 million in the third quarter. We closed the previously announced 72,000 acre Minnesota transaction in the fourth quarter. In addition residential lot sales were strong and we closed a $3.1 million commercial sale in the fourth quarter.

Shifting to financial items which are summarized on Slide 12, our total liquidity remained strong at $631 million. This amount includes $252 million of cash, as well as availability on our undrawn revolver. We did not repurchase any shares during the fourth quarter. As a reminder, we have a 10b5-1 plan in place. This reflects our ability and commitment to repurchase our shares at attractive prices as part of a broader capital allocation strategy focused on increasing shareholder value over the long-term.

We refinanced $46 million of debt in December 2020. This reduced our annual interest expense run rate approximately $700,000 beginning in December. Capital expenditures were $14.4 million in the fourth quarter. Note that the amount I just mentioned includes real estate development expenditures, which are included in cash from operations and our cash flow statement and it excludes timberland acquisitions.

I will now provide some high level outlook comments, the details are presented on Slide 13. We expect to harvest about 6 million tons in our timberland segment in 2021 with approximately 70% of the volume in the south. Harvest volumes in the north are planned to be comparable in the first quarter relative to the fourth quarter. We expect northern sawlog prices in the first quarter to be flat, compared to record fourth quarter sawlog prices. Harvest volumes and sawlog prices in the south are expected to decrease slightly in the first quarter, due primarily to seasonally less hardwood sawlogs in the mix.

We plan to ship approximately 1.1 billion board feet of lumber in 2021. In the first quarter, we plan to ship 260 million to 270 million board feet of lumber. Our estimates reflect uncertainty associated with the potential for the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to constrain operating hours in our sawmills.

We currently estimate that our average lumber price will be 20% to 25% higher in the first quarter. Having said that recent lumber prices are more volatile than I can recall seeing in my career. As a reminder, a $10 per thousand board foot change in lumber price equals approximately $12 million of consolidated EBITDA for us on an annual basis.

Shifting to real estate, we expect to sell approximately 20,000 acres of rural land and approximately 145 Chenal Valley lots in 2021. Additional real estate details are provided on the Slide. Our interest expense will be lower than normal in the first quarter, because that is when we receive our annual patronage payment from the farm credit banks. We estimate that interest expense will be $4 million in the first quarter and $8 million to $9 million per quarter for the second, third and fourth quarters of 2021. Our capital expenditures are planned to be in the range of $55 million to $60 million excluding acquisitions in 2021.

Overall, we expect to post very strong results again in the first quarter. We anticipate total adjusted EBITDA will approximate the level that we achieved in the fourth quarter, despite no repeat of the large Minnesota rural land sale that we closed last quarter. We remain bullish on industry fundamentals and we believe that our integrated operating model and leveraged lumber prices are aligned with those fundamentals. We are well positioned to continue to growing shareholder value over the long-term.

That concludes our remarks. Christian, I'd now like to open the call up to Q&A.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Okay, sir. [Operator Instructions] Your first question is from Ketan Mamtora from BMO Capital Markets. Your line is open.

Ketan Mamtora -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thank you. Congrats on a strong quarter. First question, maybe, I want to start off with the capital allocation priorities. You know, balance sheet is in a very good shape, your net leverage is down to 1.3 times, Q1 is very strong. Can talk about, sort of, what are your priorities, you touched upon M&A a little bit, but just discuss between share repurchases and M&A, how you think about it?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, thanks. Good morning, Ketan. Well, returning cash to shareholders in the form of a sustainable dividend, quite frankly it's our top priority and we analyze and review capital allocation options regularly. And what I would suggest to you is that our options were generally for most likely or least likely are as follows. So, regarding the dividend we just increased to 2.5% in December, and as you know, the Board typically does an in-depth review of our dividend in December of each year. So, we just hike it. So, we feel good about where the dividend is.

The next capital allocation item that we give consideration to is wood products capex. Jerry mentioned in his opening remarks, we're going to spend just under $30 million on discretionary mill projects in 2021. The average return that we expect to get for those projects is 32%. So we're constantly looking for projects to invest in our mills, because they typically have very high returns. So, that's the second highest priority for capital allocation.

I would say third is M&A. We're interested in acquiring timberland, mills or a combination of the two, generally in or near our current operating areas. The one caveat is that we're only going to pursue M&A if it creates shareholder value, quite frankly like the Deltic merger did. So M&A is generally third on the list.

Fourth might be debt repayment. It's hard to get too excited about paying debt down today given where we're at with the historically low interest rates and frankly we've got an under-leveraged balance sheet as we sit here today.

And then the last item in terms of list of priorities is share repurchases. Share repurchases are opportunistic, we want to buy low when we do repurchase shares and it seems most of the market gets that wrong. But we have to reserve cash on the balance sheet and be very opportunistic when we see a dislocation in our share price. And right now we're not buying back shares, because we think our stock is approaching NAV. So does that answer your question?

Ketan Mamtora -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

It does. Thank you. Just a couple of follow-ups in that. Within the discretionary capex you have in wood products, can you touch upon maybe a couple of key projects that you all are doing?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, sure. So for 2021, we've got really seven key discretionary projects that we're pursuing, again costing about $30 million. We're putting in a new stacker at our Ola sawmill down in Arkansas to improve production volumes, roughly 10 million feet. We've got a new auto-grader going into our Bemidji mill, that's going improve grade yield and lower costs. We've got a new optimized log in-feed system going into our St. Mary's mill, which is going to improve recovery and we've got a new plywood scarf line going in out of our St. Mary's plywood mill that's going to improve product mix and lower costs.

So, all of these projects collectively have got that 32% return on average, but they run from -- anywhere from I think 14% on the low end, all the way up to 41% on the high end. Just a great set of projects that we're really excited about.

Ketan Mamtora -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. That's helpful. And then, I was a little surprised looking at your FY '21 lumber shipment volumes 1.1, which is essentially, kind of, flat with what you had in 2020. Given what we are seeing with housing is a bit of conservatism in these numbers? Or maybe you want to talk about it differently. How much headroom do you have from a capacity standpoint to increase your production?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, we're going to -- we anticipate increasing shipments roughly 15 million to 20 million feet 2021 versus 2020. We've got a little bit of conservative built into our numbers simply, because COVID is still with us and COVID is costing us anywhere from 5 million to 10 million feet a quarter, but I think one of the things you have to recall is that in Q4 of 2019, we did not ship well. We finished 2019 with relatively high inventories and a lot of that inventory got shipped in Q1 of 2020. So, bottom line is 2020 was relatively inflated, because we shipped a lot in Q1 that was produced in the prior year.

I think there is a little bit of conservatism built into our numbers. I think it's fair to say that whenever we've got margin, we're running our mills as hard as we can, running as many hours as we can. Certainly that's the case today. But generally speaking, we've got an increase in shipments planned of 15 million to 20 million feet and hopefully we can beat that.

Ketan Mamtora -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. And just one last question before I turn it over. Coming back to dividend, you talked about you'll increase it at the end of December, is there any change in thought around the approach to dividend given how strong cash flows are looking on the lumber side of things, and I know you've said you don't want to push it too much given there is volatility and wood products EBITDA. But given how strong they are looking at right now, is there any change in approach in terms of whether there is some sort of a base load for dividend and then the remaining would be linked to EBITDA from lumber.

Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I appreciate the question, Ketan, and I would say that really has been no change in our philosophy around the dividend. As Eric mentioned, our focus is on growing it sustainably over the long-term, and we always pin that dividend to our more stable part of our cash flows. When you think about lumber price driven and other volatile cash flows, that's what provides a discretionary capital that we can then go look for returns to drive shareholder value over the long-term.

So, again, dividend is based on stable cash flows and there tends to be a bit of conservatism. I think served us well through the -- early in 2021 COVID pandemic first hit, our dividend was not under pressure, very comfortable level and the flip side is, we certainly have a fair bit of capital available to deploy. And as Eric mentioned, he kind of walked you through our priorities and we couldn't be more excited about the opportunities to deploy that cash and put it to work to drive shareholder value for long-term.

Ketan Mamtora -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. Very helpful. I'll turn it over. Good luck in 2021.

Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question is from Paul Quinn from RBC Capital Markets.

Paul Quinn -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great, thanks, good morning guys. Just maybe a couple of questions on your outlook. Looking at the -- on the timberland side, just a flat pricing in the north. Why do we expect that to be flat?

Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

The starting point for that flat pricing, Paul, as we had record sawlog prices in the fourth quarter and then also the other element that plays into it is timing of price resets and historically it's been about a six-week lag between a move in Western lumber prices and the move in our Idaho sawlog pricing and certainly you're going to see that timing effect play out in the first quarter as well. So when we're flat quarter-over-quarter record prices are still really strong levels.

The other thing I will take an opportunity to point out is, in the past, we've talked about having these indexed agreements on an evergreen basis for three years. At the end of the year, we actually negotiated with key customers and those are now five year arrangements and so we've lengthened the time.

And then number two, that six-week lag that I just mentioned, now is four weeks. So you're going to see more current, more kind of frequent update in the pricing that we realize. And the other key element that I should mention as well is our logs get seasonally denser in the first quarter to the tune of about 5%. So, that's a little bit of a drag or a headwind on the quarter-over-quarter price realization comparison.

Paul Quinn -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. That's up there and then -- maybe just on the real estate side, I see your guidance on the development sides, 50 lots in Q1; 145 total. Just -- I would expect that a lot -- that development lot pricing to be flat or increase over time, just seeing what we're seeing in the marketplace, but you're going from 95,000 in the first to 80,000 to 85,000. Is there a mix shift in those lots that you expect to sell for the balance of the year?

Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

You are correct, Paul, it is a mix shift. There is actually a wide range of price points that are reflected in our Chenal development that range from a lower end, kind of, an entry-level portion of the project that sells at a much lower price point, all the way up to premium golf course lots. So, that's nothing more or less than just a shift in mix.

Paul Quinn -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay and then just overall, I mean, you had great results. Obviously, the market wasn't that impressed, your shares came up 20% in last year, but they are down 5% this year. What do you guys have to do there to compete your share price moving in the right direction?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Paul, all we can do is really focus our energy around running the business as best as we possibly can. We think we've got a phenomenal track record, we've got a great track record here of capital allocation -- smart capital allocation decisions and the stock market and stock price will take care of itself over time. So we're optimistic, the market will recognize the value in the company over time.

Paul Quinn -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Alright, that's all I had. Thanks guys.

Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Paul.

Operator

Your next question is from John Babcock from Bank of America. Your line is open.

John Babcock -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Hi, thanks for taking my questions. Starting just on the lumber side. I was wondering, if you might, sort of, provide your current and average realizations there?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So, our current realization is about 40% higher than where we were in the fourth quarter on average, so plus 40% and our quarter-to-date pricing is up about 33%, compared to where we were in the fourth quarter.

John Babcock -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay, so you are basically expecting some taper and that's how you get to the 20% to 25% cadence?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, we expect a little bit of softness in March, very hard to predict. And we've got really strong order files, pretty much out through the end of February. So we have really good insight on those prices and it's hard to know, like Jerry mentioned, pricing volatility is unprecedented, but we're thinking markets could be a little soft in March.

John Babcock -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay. And then next question is more with regards to Timberland side of things. Obviously in US South prices have generally been for sawlogs pretty flat over time. And I was wondering, if you're starting to see any signs of the markets firming there? And then also if you can provide some sort of indicator, whether it's overall housing starts or any other indicator that might give us some indication of what it would take to get those markets to firm?

Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Unfortunately, John, we continue to see relatively flat sawlog prices in the US South and that continues to be our view going forward, at least for the foreseeable future, at least the next few years. We'll see movements from time-to-time as we saw in 2019, when wet weather constraints supply and you'll see a little bit of a lift, but it doesn't last. At times when you see a new mill open up, you might see a little bit of a lift. But again, that really doesn't last at least in our wood baskets and just the excess standing supply is so large that we think it will take a period of time for that situation to work itself out.

And to give a couple of other pieces of information and as a reminder, we're net short on sawlogs in the South, we actually consume more logs in sub-three Southern sawmills then we sell off our timberlands in the region. And the other data point is recently there was F2M put out a study that suggested that across the South broadly, not just in our wood baskets that there is enough fiber available to support another 40 to 50 sawmills above and beyond what's in place today. So, just to give some anecdote, but again we think it will take time.

John Babcock -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Got you. And then just last question before I turn it over. I was just wondering, with lumber prices at historic levels right now, is this having any effect on your channel mix overall, also recognizing that the market's incredibly tight right now and [Indecipherable] been making shipments as you can and as the product actually is available?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

No, I wouldn't -- I don't think it's impacting our channel mix at all. We've got a really good stable group of customers they're with us for many, many years and we continue to produce and sell to the same customer base. So I think the answer is no.

John Babcock -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Yes. Thank you. that's all I have.

Operator

Your next question is from Kurt Yinger from D.A. Davidson.

Kurt Yinger -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Yes, good morning everyone and thanks for taking my questions. Just on the mill investment side, you've outlined some high return opportunities. But I'd be interested to hear how you guys think about the potential for some larger greenfield type investments relative to acquisition opportunities. Obviously, there is still uncertainty related to COVID, but how should the backdrop be favorable as is the pricing environment yet? To-date, there hasn't been whole lot of new capacity announcements made. So just wanted to get your guys thoughts around the risk associated with that? And why it may not be higher on the priority list?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, so we look at the economics of greenfield mill construction from time-to-time and historically we're spending our capital on discrete projects in our existing mills. So either increase production and lower costs or improve grade yield. They tend to have much higher returns and are therefore more attractive investments. In the current environment it cost roughly $650 per 1,000 unit of capacity to build a new mill. It takes about a 1.5 to get it built and then you've got operating challenges, getting the mill up and running, you've got staffing challenges, it is a very lengthy start-up curve. So, I think it's fair to say our preference is simply to go the low risk -- high return route and make incremental improvements to the existing mills versus pursuing a greenfield mill expansion.

Kurt Yinger -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Okay. Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Alright, and then just lastly, could you just talk about how you're thinking about supply chain inventories right now? I know you talked about those being historically low, but any more color there in terms of any abnormal seasonal buying patterns you're seeing or expecting and maybe differences between some of those more R&R-oriented home center customers versus the new residential side?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, the only thing I would say is that customers are scrambling trying to procure lumber inventories that are at very, very low levels, prices ran up, as you know, in the fourth quarter -- third quarter, fourth quarter of last year, now into the first quarter. And so, nobody wants to buy lumber when it's $900 or $1,000 or 1,000 shifts [Phonetic] they view it as too expensive and they think, oh, prices are going to come back down. Meanwhile, you've got unprecedented demand. I mean, look at where housing starts have played out over the past couple of months, look at how strong repair and remodel markets are, Home Depot and Lowe's are -- or the home centers of posting comps in the plus 20% to plus 30% kind of range. Just really strong demand.

So I think the entire supply chain has been caught off guard without enough inventory and now we're going into, kind of, the spring season where people need to start restocking especially to treaters and everybody has been behind on buying lumber, because they think prices are going to come down. So our view is that inventories are very lean and the reason we're seeing these prices, because demand is insatiable.

Kurt Yinger -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Got it, OK. Appreciate the color. And good luck here in the first quarter.

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

Your next question is from Buck Horne from Raymond James. Your line is open.

Buck Horne -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Hey, thank you. Good morning, guys. I want to follow-on Kurt's question, just to add a little bit about the sawmill capacity that -- in your wood baskets are you seeing any third-party capital, any other players that are taking the opportunity to get new greenfield sawmills under way in your particular wood baskets? Are you seeing any signs of that starting to pop-up?

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, there have been a number of announcements here lately that are in or around our operating areas. Idaho Forest Group announced a new mill in Lumberton, Mississippi. It's probably too far away from our timberlands in Mississippi for us to supply them, but they have announced a new mill, Beaver Lumber announced a new mill in Winona, Mississippi. That one's frankly in our backyard, I'm sure we'll be supplying them with sawlogs as they get up and running. So there are a number of mills that are in and around our operating areas, but as Jerry mentioned, these mills when they start up the initial impact is maybe a little bump in sawlog prices, but then it quickly recedes. So that's kind of how it seems to play out, just excess amount of standing timber out there.

Buck Horne -- Raymond James -- Analyst

And I guess transitioning maybe a little higher level and I certainly want to agree with the housing outlook you guys laid out and we certainly believe that the demand should remain pretty robust throughout 2021 for single-family new home sales. So I guess part of the concern or the question is, I think there is a natural bias to be conservative that today's lumber prices, the OSB prices are naturally going to taper off into year-end. But is there a scenario where -- I won't say like 900 is the new normal, but is there a scenario that we're still just being too conservative with this expectation that prices are going to meaningfully drop by year-end.

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I mean that's really the million-dollar question, Buck, maybe even more than a million dollars. But, so we think what's happened in the marketplace is that housing starts have really surprised to the upside here. These latest numbers the 16 million and 17 million those are really strong numbers. If those housing starts numbers stay with us through the remainder of the year, our view is that lumber prices are going to stay elevated. If they come down to where people expect housing starts to come down to say around the 14 million to 15, million kind of, range, you can see a little bit of a taper in lumber prices.

Now that being said, we still think lumber prices are going to stay relatively high, especially given the COVID backdrop where it's costing us in any given quarter 5 million to 10 million feet of production. Take that 10 million feet across four quarters that's 40 million feet out of 1 billion board feet that we produce, that's 4%. So if everybody across the industry is having to deal with COVID and it's costing them 4% of capacity, well that's going to -- that's just going to tighten industry conditions even more than it would be otherwise. So there is a scenario here where prices don't taper and certainly we're seeing that here in Q1.

Buck Horne -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Yes, that's great. That's very helpful guys. Thanks, congrats, that's all from me.

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

And at this time, I'm showing there are no further questions. I'll now turn the call over back to Mr. Jerry Richards.

Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Alright, thank you, Christian, and thank you everybody for your interest in PotlatchDeltic. We're available the rest of the day to take your modeling questions, and I hope everybody has a good day and stay safe.

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 38 minutes

Call participants:

Jerald W. Richards -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Eric J. Cremers -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Ketan Mamtora -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Paul Quinn -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

John Babcock -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Kurt Yinger -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Buck Horne -- Raymond James -- Analyst

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