GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) _ Bowater Inc., the nation's largest newsprint producer, earned $24.7 million in the first quarter, reversing a loss from the same period last year, on rising paper prices and gains from selling some timberlands.

Bowater said Tuesday its first-quarter profits, which equaled 59 cents per diluted share, compared to a loss of $314,000, or 3 cents per share, in the first three months of 1997.

Sales rose 10 percent to $383.2 million from $348.5 million, aided by higher prices for newsprint and coated paper.

The recent quarter's results included a one-time gain of $21 million from the sale of timberlands, offset slightly by costs of $4.3 million related to its pending acquisition of Canadian paper maker Avenor Inc. That deal will make Bowater the second-largest newsprint producer in the world.

Bowater stock was up 93 3/4 cents at $57.43 3/4 per share in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.