United Tech sees 2013 profit up about 13 percent

NEW YORK Thu Dec 13, 2012 7:51pm EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) expects its profit to rise about 13 percent next year, with growing demand for its systems that are used in buildings helping to offset lower U.S. defense spending.

The world's No. 1 maker of elevators and air conditioners, whose other businesses include jet engines and helicopters, on Thursday projected 2013 earnings of between $5.85 to $6.15 per share. The midpoint would represent a 13 percent rise from the $5.32 per share it expects to report for 2012.

Analysts, on average, expect 2013 earnings of $6.12 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Chief Executive Louis Chenevert said at the company's analyst meeting in New York Thursday that the company can generate at least $5.85 per share next year even if the U.S. falls off the fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax hikes that would take effect in January if Washington lawmakers fail to agree on a budget deal.

Chenevert said he's hopeful Congress can reach a deal by December 31, but cautioned that United Technologies has held off on some capital spending due to the uncertainty.

"The economy wants to go," he told reporters. "Things want to get better. Removing that uncertainty that's out there will help the economy start to flourish."

Growth for United Technologies will come from mid-single-digit percentage sales increases in the United States and Asia, he said, while sales in Europe should be roughly flat.

"The two biggest drivers of the economy are consumer spending and housing showing signs of recovery," he said, "and oil prices that have settled down."

The company also said it plans to buy back about $1 billion of its shares, though Chenevert said he would like to push that number higher.

United Tech expects 2013 revenue to reach $64 billion to $65 billion, an 11 percent rise from the $58 billion it now expects for 2012. Wall Street had expected sales to reach $66.4 billion next year.

It anticipates sales of jet engines and other equipment to commercial airlines and recovering demand from the construction sector for its Otis elevators and Carrier air conditioners to offset a decline in sales of military engines and helicopters.

It forecast organic sales -- a measure that excludes the effects of acquisitions and currency fluctuations -- to rise 3 percent to 5 percent.

This has been an eventful year for the Hartford, Connecticut-based company. In July, United Technologies closed its largest-ever acquisition, the $16.5 billion takeover of aircraft components maker Goodrich. It sold several smaller operations to help fund the deal after Wall Street objected to Chenevert's initial financing plan of selling shares.

Having closed those deals, Chenevert said the company is focused on existing businesses, not pursuing other deals.

"The transformation is essentially complete," he said.

Faced with the uncertainty of the U.S. budget standoff in Washington, a downturn in Europe and uneven growth in major Asian economies, big U.S. manufacturers this week have offered cautious guidance for 2013.

Earlier this week, 3M Co (MMM.N) set a 2013 profit target that would represent growth of about 8 percent and Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) set one that at its midpoint called for an 8.5 percent increase.

General Electric Co (GE.N) is due to lay out its expectations for 2013 on Monday, though the largest U.S. conglomerate does not make numeric, per-share profit forecasts.

United Tech shares slipped 1 percent to $79.42 in light post-market trading, from a close of $80.37 on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares are up about 9 percent over the past year, a touch behind the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI, which has risen 10 percent.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in New York; Writing by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Leslie Adler, David Gregorio and Phil Berlowitz)

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