* Q4 operating profit misses consensus estimate
* Strong Russia sales lift 2012 profit
* Proposes dividend of 1.45 euros vs 1.33 in poll
* Shares rise 4.5 percent
(Recasts with dividend, share move and analyst comment)
HELSINKI, Feb 6 Finnish tyremaker Nokian Renkaat
raised its dividend by 21 percent after strong sales
in Russia lifted full-year profit to a record, sending its
shares up 4.5 percent.
The winter tyre specialist said 2012 operating profit grew
11 percent to 415 million euros ($561 million), or 26 percent of
sales - a level of profitability rare in an auto industry
struggling with overcapacity.
"Their margins are excellent considering the challenging
season, and the stock's valuation is not too dangerous," said
Kim Gorschelnik, head of research at Tapiola Pankki.
As of Tuesday's market close, the stock was trading at a
price per earnings ratio of 11.5, below its historical average
Earnings in the fourth-quarter fell 6 percent from a year
earlier, missing a consensus analyst forecast, and the company
said it expected lower profit in the first quarter too.
But the dividend of 1.45 euros per share for 2012, up from
1.20 euros a year earlier, was above all analyst estimates in a
Reuters poll and the company's shares were up 4.5 percent at
33.1 euros by 1107 GMT.
Tyre inventories at retailers and manufacturers have been
high in central Europe since a mild winter in 2011-2012 and
overall demand has stayed weak, forcing companies to slash
But Nokian Renkaat said it expected higher sales and
operating profit in 2013, citing new winter tyre launches and
continued growth in Russia.
The company has a factory in Vsevolozhsk with annual
capacity of 14 million tyres and plans for expansion that would
make it Russia's biggest consumer goods exporter. Nokian Renkaat
also owns its distribution chain in the country.
Its Russian sales grew 50 percent last year to 563 million
euros, outstripping 15 percent growth in the wider market. For
this year, Nokian Renkaat forecast the Russian market would
expand at a slower rate of between 2 and 5 percent.
The firm was also planning a new tyre factory in central
Europe but Gran said he was cancelling those plans due to an
economic slowdown in the region.
($1 = 0.7392 euros)
(Reporting By Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)