StockMarketWire.com - Packaging group Smurfit Kappa swung to annual loss after it wrote down its operations in Venezuela amid claims of government interference in the strife-torn country.

Underlying earnings, however, rose as the company improved margins by successfully passing higher input costs onto customers.

Pre-tax losses for the year through December amounted to €404m, compared to a profit of €576m on-year, and included a €1.27bn charge related to Venezuela.

Ebitda rose 25% to €1.55bn, with an operating margin of 17.3%, up from 14.5% on-year.

Revenue rose 4% to €8.95bn.

Smurfit Kappa declared a final dividend of 72.2c per share, up 12% on-year.

Chief executive Tony Smurfit said the company had delivered on or exceeded its key measures

'Our 2018 performance demonstrates the group's transformation of recent years, which is delivering progressively superior returns,' chief executive Smurfit said.

'While we are always conscious of macro-economic risk, Smurfit Kappa is very well positioned to capitalise on industry opportunities and to deliver consistently excellent performance for all stakeholders,' he added.

'The current year has started positively, and together with the continued development of sustainable packaging, e-commerce and other demand drivers, Smurfit Kappa has an exciting future.'

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