UPDATE 1-Retailer Metro cuts dividend after profit drop

Fri Mar 1, 2013 4:33am EST

* 2012 dividend of 1 euro/share vs 1.35 euros in 2011

* Core profit 1.98 bln euros, its expected about 2 bln

* Shares drop almost 3 pct (Adds background on dividends, shares)

FRANKFURT, March 1 (Reuters) - German retailer Metro cut its dividend for the first time and reported a fall in earnings as economic woes in Europe led shoppers to spend less at its stores.

In an unscheduled statement, Metro said it proposed a dividend of 1 euro per ordinary share for 2012, compared with 1.35 euros ($1.76) for 2011, sending its shares down almost 3 percent on Friday.

Since being listed in its current form in 1996, Metro, which has over 2,200 stores across the world ranging from cash and carries to electrical stores and department stores, has either increased or held the dividend payout stable each year.

Analysts on average had expected a dividend of 1.33 euros per share, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Metro also on Friday reported 2012 earnings before interest, taxes and special items of 1.98 billion euros, meeting its expectations, despite what it termed as "numerous significant macroeconomic challenges".

The group had forecast a fall in profit to around 2 billion euros from 2.37 billion in 2011 as shoppers, spooked by the euro zone debt crisis, held back from buying clothes, TVs and foodstuffs.

Metro is undergoing a portfolio clean-up and cost-cutting round to improve its position and has sold off its UK cash and carry operations and its eastern European hypermarkets. It also decided to halt a plan to expand its Media-Saturn chain of electrical shops in China.

Such measures resulted in one-off costs of 585 million euros in 2012.

Metro was also hit last year with a ratings downgrade after warning on profit and losing its spot in the DAX index of leading German shares.

The group will publish full annual results on March 20. ($1 = 0.7649 euros) (Reporting by Victoria Bryan; editing by Jane Baird)

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