* Sees slightly higher group demand in Q1 vs Q4
* Sees growth in Europe, North America
* Sees weaker demand in Latin America
* Says has introduced 3 pct price hike in January
* Q4 core profit 1.8 bln SEK vs forecast 1.9 bln
(Adds price increase, CEO, analyst, share price)
By Niklas Pollard and Johannes Hellstrom
STOCKHOLM, Jan 28 SKF, the world's
biggest bearings maker, has lifted prices, forecasting higher
demand in the coming months as an economic recovery takes hold
on both sides of the North Atlantic and eclipses a slowdown in
some emerging markets.
The firm, a bellwether for global manufacturing with its
bearings used in products from dishwashers to wind turbines,
said on Tuesday it had rolled out list price increases of around
three percent in Europe, North America and parts of Asia - the
first increases in the former two regions in about 18 months.
"The outlook is mildly optimistic with first-quarter
guidance a bit better in Europe and North America, and that's
what we have been waiting to see," Berenberg analyst Alexander
Virgo said. "It doesn't sound like it's that great, but it's
certainly better than being down."
Shares in SKF were up 5.8 percent by 1445 GMT, outperforming
a 0.9 percent advance in the European industrials index.
While gauges of business sentiment have been on the rise for
months in some major European markets such as Germany, solid
evidence of an upturn have been slow to filter down to factory
floors at industrial companies such as SKF.
The Swedish firm, whose rivals include U.S. group Timken
and Germany's Schaeffler AG, said it expected
demand to increase slightly in North America and Europe in the
first quarter of this year, marking the first real sign of
recovery in Europe since 2011.
"We expect to see Europe improve a little bit," Chief
Executive Tom Johnstone told a news conference, pointing to an
improvement in markets such as Germany, Eastern Europe and even
crisis-hit Spain, although France remained weak.
An upturn in the automotive industry powered a modest
recovery in demand during the final quarters of last year for
In Europe, home to about half of group sales, activity only
marginally edged up last year from lows hit at the height of the
region's debt crisis, while a U.S. industrial upturn, driven by
the shale gas boom, has also been stop and go.
SKF, which racked up its first rise in sales volumes in two
years in the third quarter, said growth in the final three
months had picked up pace to 7.1 percent, the fastest since
mid-2011 and higher than the 4.3 percent forecast by analysts.
A storm cloud on the horizon is the hitherto fast-growing
emerging markets, where SKF generates roughly a third of its
revenues but where investor concerns have mounted over the past
week amid a flight from developing world assets.
Gothenburg-based SKF said it expected demand to decline
slightly in Latin America in the coming months while remaining
roughly unchanged in Asia, where activity had been expanding as
late as the preceding quarter.
SKF said its fourth-quarter adjusted operating profit rose
to 1.8 billion crowns ($279.9 million) from 1.52 billion in the
same period last year, just missing a mean forecast of 1.92
billion in a Reuters poll of analysts.
The earnings figure excludes previously announced one-off
items, primarily a charge of 3 billion crowns for an expected
European Commission antitrust fine.
($1 = 6.4312 Swedish crowns)
(Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)