* Q4 net loss 161 mln Sfr vs forecast 98 mln loss
* Sees pick up in demand in N. America, Asia and LatAm
* To raise dividend to 1.15 Sfr per share vs 1.00
* Shares fall 1.3 pct initially
(Recasts, adds shares, analyst)
By Caroline Copley
ZURICH, Feb 27 Holcim expects major
cost cuts to boost profits in 2013 after the Swiss cement maker
reported a bigger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss due partly
to restructuring charges.
Holcim has had to step up a cost-cutting drive to cope with
weak demand in Europe, where sluggish construction markets have
forced cement makers, including France's Lafarge and
Germany's HeidelbergCement to shave costs and sell
non-core assets tackle overcapacity.
Holcim said on Wednesday it aimed to cut cement capacity in
Europe by around 10 percent. At the same time, it plans to
expand capacity in high-growth emerging market countries like
India, Indonesia, Brazil and Ecuador.
In its outlook, Holcim predicted higher cement sales in
North America, Asia and Latin America in 2013, but was less
optimistic about Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Chief Executive Bernard Fontana said he expected to be able
to push through price rises in Asia and Latin America this year
and had raised cement prices by $5-$7 per tonne in the United
States since Jan. 1.
Rivals Lafarge and HeidelbergCement have both predicted
stronger demand for cement this year, driven by growing volumes
in emerging markets and a recovery of the U.S. home construction
Holcim, currently the world's largest cement maker by market
value, had said in May cost-cuts would boost profits by at least
1.5 billion Swiss francs by the end of 2014.
The group stepped up the pace of the overhaul in December
and flagged restructuring charges and write-offs of more than
500 million francs.
In the fourth quarter, the company booked 457 million francs
in write-offs on property and plant equipment. For the full-year
the costs related to its savings programme were 239 million
francs compared to guidance of 200 million.
These contributed to a fourth-quarter net loss after
minorities of 161 million francs, compared to an average analyst
forecast of 98 million loss in a Reuters poll.
France's Lafarge earlier this month had produced
stronger than expected fourth quarter earnings.
Holcim's sales rose 1 percent in the fourth quarter to 5.3
million francs, also short of the average analyst expectations.
Vontobel analyst Serge Rotzer said European sales were
disappointing and only partially explained by restructuring
costs. He said the start to 2013 would be challenging: "We fail
to see strong catalysts in the short term."
Shares in Holcim, which have risen some 47 percent since
mid-June last year, fell more than one percent before turning
positive. They were 0.1 pct higher at 71.95 francs by 1220 GMT,
underperforming the European construction and materials sector
"For further substantial increases in the share price, the
world economy will presumably have to show clear progress,"
Notenstein analysts said in a note.
Holcim said it would pay a dividend of 1.15 francs per
share, up from 1.00 franc a year earlier.
($1 = 0.9315 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by David Holmes and Jane