UPDATE 1-Clariant Q4 net profit flat on forex, higher spending

Wed Feb 19, 2014 2:14am EST

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(Adds comments on prices, outlook)

ZURICH Feb 19 (Reuters) - Swiss speciality chemicals maker Clariant said its fourth-quarter net profit was virtually unchanged from a year earlier, held back by currency swings and higher spending.

The Basel-based company reported on Wednesday a net profit of 85 million Swiss francs ($96 million) for the quarter, missing a forecast of 92.3 million francs in a Reuters poll of six analysts.

Clariant said it expected sales to grow by a low to mid single-digit percentage in local currency this year and a margin on earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) before exceptional items above last year's level.

It plans to pay 0.36 francs per share as a dividend.

Hit by the devaluation of a handful of emerging market currencies, Clariant said it was seeking to hike prices, for example in Latin America, to offset the foreign exchange impact.

Clariant is disposing of various businesses as part of a restructuring designed to focus on products that are more profitable and reduce its exposure to areas of the market vulnerable to swings in the global economy.

The company has reorganised itself into four business units - care chemicals, plastics and coatings, natural resources and catalysis and energy.

Chief Executive Hariolf Kottmann said Clariant may make smaller, so-called bolt-on purchases, and also offload smaller businesses which no longer fit its four business units, but that the bulk of its revamp was over.

That means Clariant can now turn to growth and a mid-term target of recording an EBITDA margin of 16 to 19 percent from 2015, a goal it reiterated on Wednesday.

($1 = 0.8884 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Katharina Bart; Additional reporting by Paul Arnold; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Mark Potter)

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