UPDATE 2-HeidelbergCement misses dividend, profit, debt forecasts

Wed Mar 19, 2014 6:01am EDT

* Proposes to pay FY dividend 0.60 eur/shr vs poll 0.91 shr

* Sees higher revenue, operating income this year

* FY net profit 945 mln eur vs Rtrs poll 957 mln

* To focus more on selling building products line

* Shares drop 3.2 percent, biggest Dax faller (Adds analyst comments, detail, background, shares)

By Marilyn Gerlach

FRANKFURT, March 19 (Reuters) - Germany's HeidelbergCement missed 2013 net profit, dividend and debt forecasts, dampening investors' hopes about its ability to take advantage of an economic recovery in North America and Europe.

Shares in the world's third-largest cement maker by market value fell 3.2 percent in early Wednesday trading, the biggest decline on Germany's benchmark stock index.

HeidelbergCement said it expected revenue and operating income to grow this year, before currency moves and accounting changes, thanks to improving demand for building materials in North America and western and northern Europe, which together account for almost 50 percent of group revenue.

But analysts said it faced challenges in some emerging markets such as Indonesia, where it lost market share last year amid a weak rupiah, as well as India due to higher inflation.

"The outlook statement continued the cautious positivity of recent years noting the positive macro-economy, but little specific positivity to its businesses," Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Ian Osburn said in a research note.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said the consensus forecast for a 10 percent rise in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation this year might come down in the wake of the results and guidance.

With economic growth picking up in Europe and the United States, construction firms are expecting to build more factories and skyscrapers for offices, hotels and retailers, although tight government budgets will likely continue to rein in spending on roads, tunnels and railways.

French cement maker Lafarge has forecast the cement market will expand 2-5 percent this year, led by North America, the Middle East and Africa, with market conditions stabilising in Europe.

Switzerland's Holcim, meanwhile, has warned of slower growth in construction markets in Asia-Pacific and an uncertain outlook in Latin America.

Analysts expect HeidelbergCement to raise prices in the United States, possibly by about 5 percent, we well as in the UK and Germany, which will be a test of the strength of the recovery in those markets.

HeidelbergCement posted a 79 percent rise in 2013 net profit to 945 million euros ($1.3 billion), missing the average forecast of 957 million in a Reuters poll of analysts.

It proposed a dividend of 0.60 euro per share, below expectations for 0.91 euros, and also missed a debt target after spending 400 million euros on acquisitions and paying a cartel fine of 161 million.

Net debt stood at 7.5 billion euros at end-December from 7.047 billion the year earlier, and the group's ratio of net debt to operating income before depreciation (OIBD) rose to 3.1, missing a target to cut it to below 2.8 by the end of 2013.

The company, which racked up debt via its $15 billion acquisition of UK rival Hanson in 2007, is aiming to regain an investment grade credit rating.

Chief Executive Bernd Scheifele said the company would focus more intensively this year on selling its building products business line in the UK and North America.

Scheifele told Reuters in October the firm planned to divest the asset in a "dual track" process, in which it will examine both a sale and a stock market flotation.

($1 = 0.7188 Euros) (Reporting by Marilyn Gerlach; Editing by John Stonestreet and Mark Potter)

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