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* Decision on 50 mln euro U.S. plant in Q4
* Q1 EBIT 49 mln euros vs Reuters poll avg 37 mln
* Shares down 0.9 pct (Releads on plans for U.S. plant, adds shares)
VIENNA, May 15 (Reuters) - Austrian fireproof materials maker RHI is considering building a new plant in the United States, the company said, to join the growing number of European industrial firms attracted by cheap energy prices across the Atlantic.
RHI, which produces heat-resistant products used mainly in the steel industry, said it would make a decision in the fourth quarter and could invest about 50 million euros ($65 million) to build or take over a plant.
Chief Executive Franz Struzl said that the main advantages would be the inexpensive oil and gas available in the United States and a government that is more sympathetic to the needs of industrial companies than European states are at present.
A boom in cheap shale gas is making the United States a magnet for industry and has already persuaded Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine to invest 550 million euros in a new plant in Texas.
RHI, which is to close a plant in Duisburg, Germany, to adapt to falling steel production in Europe, earlier reiterated its outlook for stable revenues and a higher underlying operating profit margin this year after first-quarter operating profit easily beat market expectations.
Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) rose 47 percent to 49.4 million euros ($64.1 million), beating even the highest estimate in a Reuters poll of analysts that on average expected EBIT of 37.2 million euros.
RHI said that a $40 million payment it will receive in the second quarter from an asbestos settlement in the United States would have a positive impact on EBIT, balancing out the restructuring costs for closing the Duisburg plant.
The company's shares were down 0.9 percent by 1419 GMT, broadly in line with a 0.5 percent fall for Austria's ATX index . ($1 = 0.7705 euros) (Reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich; Writing by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by David Goodman)