UPDATE 2-ABB orders fall on utility delays, project refocus

Thu Jul 25, 2013 9:05am EDT

Related Topics

* Orders fall 7 pct to $9.312 bln

* CEO sees growth opportunities in Europe

* Net profit rises 16 pct to $763 mln

* Shares fall 5 pct (Recasts, adds CEO comments, analyst, details)

ZURICH, July 25 (Reuters) - Swiss engineer ABB's more selective approach to projects and delays by utilities in starting new schemes drove a fall in second-quarter orders below expectations, sending its shares down over 4 percent on Thursday.

Restructuring at the world's biggest supplier of industrial motors and power grids also weighed on orders, which fell 7 percent on the year to $9.312 billion.

Second-quarter net profit rose 16 percent, below expectations, and analysts at Espirito Santo Investment Bank said the order setback cast doubt on whether ABB can meet market views for the latter part of this year.

The brokerage maintained its "buy" recommendation.

ABB said it is offsetting some market uncertainty by being geographically and technologically diversified, allowing the company to tap opportunities for profitable growth.

"Some areas that you think of as lower growth areas actually might be opportunities," said outgoing chief executive Joe Hogan who wil be replaced in September by Ulrich Spiesshofer, head of the company's discrete automation and motion (DAM) division.

ABB said last December it was pulling out of low-margin engineering, procurement and construction operations in more than 10 countries and planned to shift its focus to higher-margin software and systems activities.

The company's shares have risen 15 percent so far this year, outperforming a 10 percent gain in the European industrial goods and services sector index the that period.

The stock trades at 14.5 times estimated earnings over the next 12 months at a premium to German rival Siemens' 11.9 times and France's Schneider 12.9 times, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Higher orders in northern European markets such as Germany and Sweden helped to offset some of the weakness in southern Europe, ABB said.

"Europe is never just Europe, it's country by country, and there are good growth opportunities in that sense," Hogan said, adding he was bullish on China and also watching Japan.

The company won a contract in July to supply the Netherlands with equipment to build a network of stations for charging electric vehicles.

ABB, which also makes components for the oil and gas industry, is concentrating on consolidating acquisitions from a spending spree over the past few years. Most recently it said it would buy U.S. solar energy company Power One for about $1 billion.

Second-quarter net profit rose 16 percent to $763 million, compared with the average forecast in a Reuters poll for a jump of 20.6 percent to $791 million. (Reporting by Alice Baghdjian; Editing by David Cowell)

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