UPDATE 1-Husqvarna points to U.S. turnaround as Q4 falls short

Thu Feb 6, 2014 3:30am EST

* Husqvarna Q4 op loss bigger than analyst forecasts

* Posts full year profit for American business

* Cost cuts help narrow loss in Americas

* "Cautiously optimistic" on demand

STOCKHOLM, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Swedish outdoor equipment maker Husqvarna pointed to improvements in its troubled U.S. operations on Thursday after reporting a bigger-than-forecast quarterly loss for the group, hit by unfavourable weather and marketing costs in Europe.

Husqvarna has suffered for several years from problems in its North American business, first by a botched move of production from one factory to another and more recently by spiralling costs in its deliveries to retailers.

In the fourth quarter, the company faced unusually warm weather across Europe - its most important market - which curbed sales of machines that clear snow.

It reported an operating loss of 308 million crowns ($47 million) for the fourth quarter versus a loss of 222 million seen in a Reuters poll, falling short of analyst forecasts for the eighth straight quarter. In the last quarter of 2012, the loss was 348 million before special items.

The world's largest producer of outdoor power products such as lawn mowers and garden tractors said cost cuts and lower materials costs had helped it eke out a small full-year profit in North and South America for the first time since 2010 and gave a cautiously positive forecast for demand ahead.

Husqvarna shares were up 0.4 percent at 0808 GMT, slightly less than a 0.6 percent rise in the wider Stockholm market .

"In terms of demand, I am cautiously optimistic given the continued improvements in the U.S. economy and by the European indications of stabilisation," CEO Kai Warn said in a statement.

Warn took the helm last year as the company changed chief executive for the second time in less than two years.

Husqvarna, which competes with the likes of Stanley Black & Decker, Deere and Toro, last year shed 600 jobs, around 4 percent of its workforce, to cut costs.

The fourth quarter, a low season for gardening, is Husqvarna's weakest and accounts for roughly 15 percent of annual sales.

Link to report:

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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