* Comparable EBIT 493 mln euros vs 550 mln in poll
* Contemplating asset sales
* Dividend 1.1 euros per share vs 1.0 forecast
(Adds quotes, details, background)
OSLO, Feb 4 Finnish utility Fortum
reported a bigger than expected drop in fourth-quarter
underlying profit and said it was looking at opportunities to
sell more of its electricity distribution business.
Fortum said on Tuesday its quarterly comparable operating
profit fell 17 percent to 493 million euros ($666 million), well
below the market's forecast for 550 million. It proposed a
dividend of 1.1 euros per share, above forecasts for 1 euro.
"Precipitation was weak in Fortum's operating areas during
the first three quarters of the year; this put pressure on hydro
volumes and thus impacted Fortum's results negatively," the
company said in a statement.
"Looking at the operating environment for Fortum overall,
it's clear that the markets will remain challenging also in
2014," it added.
Fortum said it expected annual power demand in the Nordic
countries to grow an average 0.5 percent in the coming years.
Last December, the company announced plans to sell its local
power distribution grid to a group of institutional investors
led by First State Investments and Borealis Infrastructure for
2.55 billion euros, and said it was also looking to sell its
Swedish and Norwegian distribution networks.
The sale was part of a series of regulated grid sales by
large energy firms seeking to cut debt and focus on their power
generation businesses instead.
Fortum said earlier its sale of the Swedish grid could take
place in the latter half of 2014, while the smaller Norwegian
business might be sold sooner.
($1 = 0.7397 euros)
(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi, Ole Petter Skonnord and Nerijus
Adomaitis; Editing by Mark Potter)