UPDATE 2-Rockwell Auto results boosted by improving Asia, Europe

Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:02am EST

* Raises low end of 2014 earnings forecast

* First-quarter revenue rises 7 pct

* Europe region sales jump 10 pct, Asia up 5 pct

* Adjusted earnings $1.47 vs est $1.39

* Shares rise 3 pct

Jan 29 (Reuters) - Rockwell Automation Inc lifted the lower end of its 2014 forecast as sales in Asia Pacific rose for the first time in six quarters and spending in Europe picked up.

Rockwell shares rose as much as 3 percent after the maker of motion control and industrial safety systems also reported a better-than-expected 23 percent jump in first-quarter profit.

"It was great to see Asia return to growth, led by China," Chief Executive Keith Nosbusch said on a conference call.

Sales growth at Rockwell and its peers has been subdued over the past two years as weak spending in China and Europe more than offset higher revenue from the United States.

Rockwell said sales in the Asia-Pacific region rose 5 percent in the quarter ended Dec. 31, boosted by a 21 percent increase in China.

The company, however, said that it could not tell if growth in China would be stable through the rest of the year.

"We certainly believe now that we are in a stable point in the China market, but they have a number of potential issues that continue to be concerning," Nosbusch said.

Revenue from the Europe, Middle East and Africa operating region jumped 10 percent to $324.4 million in the first quarter.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Rockwell raised the low end of its earnings forecast to $6.00 per share from $5.95. It maintained the high end of the range at $6.35.

Analysts on average forecast earnings of $6.23 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Rockwell's net income rose to $198.1 million, or $1.41 per share, from $161.4 million, or $1.14 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $1.47 per share, comfortably beating the average analyst estimate of $1.39.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $1.59 billion.

Rockwell shares were trading up 1.7 percent at $117.02 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

They have gained 28 percent in the past 12 months, outperforming the S&P 500 index, which has risen about 19 percent.

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