UPDATE 1-Swedish lockmaker Assa Abloy lifted by U.S. and high-tech products
* Q4 like-for-like sales up 4 pct vs forecast 3 pct
* Core profit in line with forecast
* Proposes dividend of 5.7 SEK/share vs forecast 5.5 SEK
STOCKHOLM, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Assa Abloy, the world's biggest lockmaker, posted slightly stronger than expected like-for-like fourth-quarter sales on the back of strong growth in North America and its expanding portfolio of high-tech products.
The maker of locks under brands such as Yale has seen demand pick up in recent quarters, not least in the United States, where the housing market looks to have shifted into higher gear after a lingering slump linked to the 2008/09 financial crisis.
The Swedish company, a rival to Ingersoll-Rand and Stanley Black & Decker, said organic sales grew 4 percent in the final months of last year, beating market expectations of 3 percent.
"My judgment is that the world economy is slowly on the way to improving, although still affected by the budget cutbacks that many countries are making," Chief Executive Johan Molin said in a statement.
"Our strategy therefore remains unchanged, to reduce our dependence on mature markets and to expand strongly in the emerging markets, which are expected to go on growing well."
Assa Abloy said that earnings before interest and tax, excluding one-off items, rose to 2.2 billion crowns ($338.7 million) from 2.03 billion a year earlier. The average forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts was for 2.22 billion crowns.
The company also said it would propose a dividend of 5.70 crowns per share for 2013, up from 5.10 crowns a year earlier and above the 5.52 crowns forecast by analysts.