UPDATE 2-Provisions wipe out Q4 profit at Saudi Savola
* Blames loss-making units, asset write-offs
* Says will sell some overseas units
* Adds will bounce back with record 1 bln riyals net in 2011
(Adds details, outlook, fund manager, background)
By Asma Alsharif
JEDDAH, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Unexpected provisions for loss-making units and asset write-offs almost wiped out fourth-quarter profit at Saudi food company Savola 2050.SE.
Net profit fell to 2 million riyals from 268.6 million ($71.62 million) in the final quarter of the previous year, while analysts surveyed by Reuters had on average expected 241 million. [ID:nLDE70C07O]
Savola, which owns the Middle East's biggest sugar refining business and produces edible oil, said it would bounce back with a record net profit in 2011.
It blamed provisions for losses at some operations, asset write-offs at units abroad and its stake in Emaar Properties EMAR.DU for the fourth-quarter slump, in a bourse statement.
Chief Executive Abdulraouf Mannaa said Savola would sell some overseas units, without providing details. Officials at its Jeddah headquarters could not be reached for comment.
Savola unveiled unspecified asset sales when Chief Executive Sami Baroum announced a surprise exit in April. [ID:nLDE63I19E]
For 2011, the company said it expected record net profit before capital gains of 1 billion riyals, up from 933 million last year, according to a separate statement, including 160 million in the first quarter.
"They have taken provisions in the fourth quarter ... but expectations for next year are high, so I don't think they have any problems," said Hesham Abou Jamee, head of asset management for Bakheet Investment Group in Riyadh.
Savola said it will pay a dividend of 1.25 riyals per share for 2010.
Fourth-quarter sales grew 20.8 percent to 5.8 billion riyals, while operating profit rose 53 percent to 421.5 million.
Shares in Savola closed down 0.3 percent before the earnings were announced.
($1=3.750 Saudi Arabian Riyal)
(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Andrew Callus and David Hulmes)
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