UPDATE 1-Finnish paper firm UPM quarterly profits beat forecasts

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HELSINKI, April 23 (Reuters) - Finnish paper and pulp producer UPM reported on Thursday a smaller-than-expected fall in quarterly profits, saying it saw only a limited impact from the coronavirus pandemic in the first quarter.

Low pulp prices and a sector-wide strike in Finland caused UPM’s underlying operating profit (EBITDA) for the January-March quarter to fall to 398 million euros ($431 million) from 488 million euros a year earlier, beating the 346.7 million euros expected by analysts in a Refinitiv Eikon poll.

Shares in UPM were 2.2% higher in early trading.

“During the first quarter our businesses were not significantly impacted by the pandemic - not even in China - and we are able to report solid results,” Chief Executive Jussi Pesonen said in a statement.

However, at the end of March, UPM scrapped its 2020 outlook due to the significant uncertainty.

“Many of our products serve essential everyday needs and may therefore see relatively solid demand during the pandemic, particularly for pulp, speciality papers and self-adhesive labels,” Pesonen said.

“On the other hand, the demand for graphic papers, plywood and timber is likely to be impacted by the lockdowns and the following global recession,” he said.

The comments echoed those of rival Stora Enso, which this week also reported a smaller than expected drop in first-quarter profit.

$1 = 0.9240 euros Reporting by Tarmo Virki and Anne Kauranen; Editing by Toby Chopra and Edmund Blair