Weyerhaeuser will consider increasing its dividend for the first time since 1995 after the company pays off debt with proceeds from yesterday's sale of timberland and lumber mills in Canada.

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Weyerhaeuser will consider increasing its dividend for the first time since 1995 after the company pays off debt with proceeds from yesterday’s sale of timberland and lumber mills in Canada, Chief Financial Officer Richard Taggart said.

“It’s an issue that our board now has the opportunity to address, now that we’ve restored the balance sheet,” Taggart said yesterday during a presentation at a CIBC World Markets investor conference in Vancouver, B.C., that was broadcast on the Web. The world’s biggest lumber producer now pays a quarterly dividend of 40 cents a share.

Weyerhaeuser is selling 635,000 acres of private timberlands in the coastal region of British Columbia, five sawmills and two finishing plants to Canada’s Brascan for about $970 million plus working capital.

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Weyerhaeuser, based in Federal Way, acquired the assets with its $2.45 billion purchase of MacMillan Bloedel in 1999. The assets form about 20 percent of its operations in Canada, where the company has about a quarter of its global holdings.

Weyerhaeuser will reach its goal of having a debt-to-capital ratio in a range of 30 percent to 40 percent with proceeds from the sale. The ratio was at 40.8 percent at the end of last year.

Weyerhaeuser had cut debt by $3.62 billion to $10.6 billion at the end of last year since its $7.73 billion acquisition of papermaker Willamette Industries in March 2002.

Weyerhaeuser had $9.6 billion in debt at the end of last quarter net of its cash balance, the measure the company uses to determine the debt-to-capital ratio, Taggart said.

Weyerhaeuser said the Brascan sale will also allow it to focus on its “core North American softwood business.” Cedar lumber produced on the coast is geared to higher-end uses rather than the construction market targeted for other softwoods such as pine or spruce.

The Brascan news pushed Weyerhaeuser’s stock up $1.32, or 2 percent, to $65.81 yesterday.

Information from Reuters is included

in this report.