* 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 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)