Mondi delivered a robust performance in the first quarter of 2021, with strong demand across our packaging businesses supported by our broad range of innovative, sustainable packaging solutions, and higher average containerboard selling prices following recently implemented price increases.
Strong cost control continues to support our performance against a backdrop of input cost inflation and negative currency effects.
Underlying EBITDA for the first quarter was in line with our expectations at €353 million, down 8% compared to the prior year period (Q1 2020: €385 million) while up 14% on a sequential basis (Q4 2020: €309 million). Good cash generation resulted in lower net debt at the end of the quarter.
We continue to invest in our business to capture growth opportunities; enhance our product offering, quality and service to customers; strengthen our cost competitiveness; and improve our environmental footprint. This ongoing investment enables us to grow in our packaging markets by leveraging structural growth drivers, including e-commerce and the transition to more sustainable packaging solutions.
Our major capital investment projects are progressing well. The new 300,000 tonne per annum kraft top white machine at Ruzomberok (Slovakia) and the converted speciality kraft paper machine at Steti (Czech Republic), both commissioned in January 2021, are ramping up successfully and the high-quality products are being well-received by our customers.
Sustainability remains at the centre of our strategy. As a leading producer of both paper and flexible plastic-based packaging, we are uniquely positioned to deliver a range of sustainable packaging solutions to our customers, adhering to our principle of ‘paper where possible, plastic when useful’. Following the launch of our ten-year sustainability plan, MAP2030, earlier this year, we are developing bespoke roadmaps across the business to achieve our commitments on circular-driven solutions, empowered people and climate action.
We believe working in partnership with others is key to having a meaningful positive impact. We are pleased to have confirmed two new partnerships during the quarter, the first with the Alliance for Water Stewardship to tackle climate change impacts on water security and the second with the United Nations World Food Programme recognising the important role fit-for-purpose packaging can play in addressing food waste in the fight to eliminate world hunger.
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