UPDATE 1-Canon forecasts dull 2012 earnings growth

Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:44am EST

* Canon Q4 operating profit 94.6 bln yen, up 14 percent

* Full-year profit 378.1 bln yen, vs 387.5 bln yen prior yr

* Forecasts 390 bln yen operating profit for 2012

TOKYO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Canon Inc forecast weaker-than-expected earnings growth for 2012, citing worries over a slowing global economy and a strong yen that are likely to weigh on the export-dependent camera and printer maker's profits.

The company also posted a slightly better-than-forecast 14 percent rise in fourth-quarter operating profit on Monday .

Like other Japanese exporters, Canon, which makes 80 percent of its revenue overseas, has been buffeted by the strong yen and the floods in Thailand, but it has emphasised it plans to counter these challenges by cutting costs and increasing automation.

"Owing to the historically high valuation of the yen combined with the effects of the earthquake and floods, all of Canon's businesses faced extremely demanding conditions throughout the year," the company said in a statement.

Canon's operating profit for October-December was 94.6 billion yen ($1.23 billion), compared with 82.8 billion yen in the same quarter of the previous year. Consensus expectations were for a 92.4 billion yen profit, based on the average of five estimates from analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Operating profit for the full year to December was 378.1 billion yen, down from 387.5 billion yen in the previous year but beating the average of 20 analyst forecasts for a profit of 372 billion yen.

It forecast a full-year operating profit of 390 billion yen for the current year to December 2012, compared with expectations of a 470 billion yen profit based on the average of 20 estimates by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Canon, which competes with Xerox in printers and Nikon and Sony Corp in cameras, aims to sell 9.2 million interchangeable lens cameras and 22 million compact cameras in the year to December, compared with 7.2 million and 18.7 million, respectively, last year.

Its shares have fallen about 18 percent since the start of last year, slightly worse than the benchmark Nikkei average's 14 percent drop.

Xerox lowered its outlook for 2012 this month, on expectations that the debt crisis in Europe would hurt its business.

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