UPDATE 1-HeidelbergCement upbeat on 2013, expands in Australia

Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:46am EDT

* Doubles stake in Cement Australia to 50 pct

* Buys 25 pct stake from Holcim

* Sees 2013 earnings growth from Asia, N. America, Africa (Adds Australia joint venture, share price indication)

By Peter Dinkloh

FRANKFURT, March 14 (Reuters) - HeidelbergCement said on Thursday it expected operating income to grow this year due to stronger demand from North America, Asia and Africa.

The German cement company also said it would double its stake in an Australian cement maker to 50 percent as it expects rising demand from the region will boost profits in 2013.

HeidelbergCement will buy a 25 percent stake in Cement Australia from Swiss company Holcim for an undisclosed price to form a joint venture.

Cement Australia, based in Milton, Queensland, generated sales of A$1 billion ($1 billion) in 2012. It has two cement factories as well as a crushing mill and a second crushing mill is being built.

HeidelbergCement's shares were indicated 0.7 percent higher at 0644 GMT, according to brokerage Lang & Schwarz.

The company, based in Heidelberg in southern Germany, said on Feb. 7 it expected to be able to raise prices this year following a pick-up in demand in some of its markets in Asia, Africa and North America.

It also said in February it aimed to accelerate a cost-cutting programme to save an extra 150 million euros this year, which will bring its target for cutting annual costs over the three years ending 2013 to 1 billion euros.

In February, the company reported a 10.9 percent rise in operating income in the fourth quarter to 455 million euros.

According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, analysts estimate 2013 operating income rising to 1.68 billion euros ($2.18 billion) from the 1.61 billion euros HeidelbergCement posted for 2012.

($1 = 0.7722 euros) ($1 = 0.9716 Australian dollars) (Reporting By Peter Dinkloh. Editing by Jane Merriman)