* Pretax profit 1.66 bln SEK vs consensus 1.33 bln
* Order bookings 32.0 bln SEK vs consensus 32.1 bln
* Says Europe to remain weak, optimistic on US
* Shares up 3.4 pct
(Adds detail, background, shares)
STOCKHOLM, Feb 7 Skanska, the Nordic
region's biggest builder, reported higher than expected fourth
quarter profits on Thursday and was optimistic about the outlook
this year for U.S. construction, its largest market.
Skanska has been banking on strong demand in the United
States, where the housing market is on the mend after the
financial crisis, to help offset weakness in Europe.
"The European markets are expected to remain weak,
particularly for large new civil construction projects, and
competition for these projects is intense," it said.
The company said that despite the financial turmoil, there
was a very positive market outlook for the United States.
"Skanska has a strong market position in growing market
segments, such as healthcare, offices and complex infrastructure
projects," it said.
Fourth quarter pretax profit rose to 1.66 billion crowns
($262 million) against a mean forecast in a Reuters poll of
analysts for a profit roughly unchanged from the year-ago 1.33
Order bookings at Skanska's construction unit, which makes
up nine tenths of group turnover, fell year-on-year to 32.0
billion crowns, roughly in line with expectations. But this was
up on the third quarter and Skanska said it had started 2013
with a 14-month order backlog.
Quarterly profit at the construction unit was slightly
better than the company's forecast in December when it announced
writedowns in Latin America in the fourth quarter totalling 500
Skanska proposed an unchanged dividend of 6.0 crowns per
share as expected.
Its shares rose 3.4 percent at the opening, taking a
year-to-date rise to 3.0 percent.
($1 = 6.3446 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom. Editing by Jane Merriman)