UPDATE 1-Cargotec shares surge on turnaround signs
* Q2 core op profit 37.5 mln euros vs 35.2 mln in poll
* Op profit at Hiab, Kalmar units improve vs Q1
* Shares rise about 12 pct (Rewrites first paragraph, adds valuation, analyst comments)
HELSINKI, July 18 (Reuters) - Finland's Cargotec Oyj posted higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on Thursday, raising hopes of a turnaround at the struggling cargo handling equipment maker and boosting its shares.
The stock jumped almost 12 percent to its highest level in two months after Cargotec said profits at two of its businesses - container handling equipment unit Kalmar and tail-lift unit Hiab - had improved on the previous three months.
Those signs of improvement helped offset results at marine unit MacGregor - a maker of hatch covers and cranes for ships - whose sales forecast for this year was cut to 800 million euros from 850 million after some customers deferred orders.
"Favourable trends were seen in both Kalmar and Hiab's delivery volumes and profitability during the second quarter," said Cargotec President and CEO Mika Vehvilainen. "We are continuing our efforts to improve our profitability."
Cargotec has been struggling to improve its results for the past few years as global economic uncertainty has made its customers such as shipping companies and port operators hesitant about new investments.
"The risk that there would be worse to come eased off slightly," said analyst Pekka Spolander at banking group Pohjola.
The poor performance of Cargotec shares has left the company lowly rated against rivals. Its enterprise value to EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation) multiple was just 6.2, compared with 10.2 and 11.7 respectively for rivals Konecranes and Palfinger.
"Cargotec has often disappointed investors and in that sense the lower valuation is understandable. But if there will be profitability improvement, then the valuation looks attractive," FIM analyst Sanna Kaje said.
Second-quarter operating profit excluding restructuring costs fell 9 percent to 37.5 million euros, beating all forecasts in a Reuters poll where the average estimate was 35.2 million.
The Kalmar unit achieved a quarterly operating profit of 16 million euros, while Hiab's was around 9 million euros, both ahead of average estimates having been boosted by cost cuts.
Yet the company, which has set a target of cutting some 400 jobs in total, remains downbeat on its immediate prospects.
It forecast full-year operating profit, excluding restructuring costs, to be unchanged or slightly lower than in 2012. It expects 2013 sales to be slightly lower than in 2012. ($1 = 0.7637 euros) (Editing by David Holmes)
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