UPDATE 2-Kemira profit hit by weak titanium dioxide market

Wed Feb 6, 2013 10:49am EST

* Q4 core profit down 2 pct vs expected 20 pct rise

* Weak titanium dioxide market hits its JV Sachtleben

* Company says no buyer for Sachtleben yet

* Shares fall 3 percent

HELSINKI, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Finnish chemicals group Kemira reported a weaker-than-expected fourth quarter profit after a fall in the titanium dioxide market hurt its German joint venture Sachtleben.

Wednesday's results underscored the weak position of Kemira and Rockwood as they try to sell or float Sachtleben.

Chief Executive Wolfgang Buechele confirmed Kemira was looking to dispose of Sachtleben, but said there had been no opportunity for a deal yet.

"The market environment for titanium dioxide changed completely in 2012, causing a deterioration of the performance of the JV Sachtleben with a substantial negative impact on our EPS," the company said.

The titanium dioxide industry, led by companies such as Dupont and Saudi Arabia's Cristal Global, has had a roller-coaster ride in the past few years.

Titanium dioxide particles can be used to reflect light, creating whiteness in paints and car coatings. They can also be used in sunblock and on plastic or wood for protection.

Producers cut capacity in 2009 only to see demand rebound in the following two years, driven by the automotive sector. But prices came under pressure again last year as idled plants came back on stream.

Buechele said he did not expect the titanium dioxide market to recover to a record high seen in 2011 in the foreseeable future.

He also warned that its other businesses, ranging from water quality management to chemical solutions for oil and mining industries, suffered from competition from bigger rivals.

Kemira shares fell 3 percent after the company's fourth-quarter core operating profit fell 2 percent from a year earlier to 33.7 million euros ($45.59 million). Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected a 20 percent rise on average.

Kemira launched a new restructuring programme last year to cope with the tougher business environment. It said it expected adjusted core operating profit to be significantly higher in 2013 thanks to such cuts.