* Fourth-quarter revenue rises 3 pct to $2.71 billion
* Adjusted earnings $0.48/share vs estimates $0.37/share
* Shares rise as much as 6 pct
By Kanika Sikka
Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. chemical maker Huntsman Corp’s forecast higher earnings across all its business units this year, after posting a better-than-expected quarterly profit as cost cuts boost margins.
Huntsman’s shares rose as much as 5.7 percent to $23.41 on Tuesday.
A 7 percent drop in operating costs and higher sales at four of Huntsman’s five businesses helped the company post a fourth-quarter profit, compared with a loss a year-ago.
The 4 percent rise in revenue at its biggest business, polyurethane, was the steepest rise across all its businesses.
The business makes materials used in foam insulation and accounted for more than 45 percent of revenue in the quarter.
Revenue in the pigments business rose 3 percent, the first rise in seven quarters, driven mainly by a increased demand from Europe, the company’s largest market for the product.
Huntsman bought Rockwood Holdings Inc’s pigments business for $1.1 billion, betting on a turnaround in the market demand for titanium dioxide, a pigment used to whiten everything from toothpaste to cars.
A recovery in automobile and housing industries in North America is boosting demand for the pigment and Huntsman said it expected prices to be modestly higher in the current quarter and the third quarter.
“Improvement in volumes and declining inventory levels point to stabilizing pigment market conditions,” UBS analyst John Roberts said in a note.
Huntsman shut a textile effects facility in Basel, Switzerland in the fourth quarter and moved production to low-cost locations.
“Aggressive self-help measures that have re-focused our efforts on key markets and lowered our costs are yielding benefits to the bottom line,” Chief Executive Peter Huntsman said in a statement.
“(Management’s efforts) had a greater bottom-line impact than we had modeled,” Macquarie Securities analyst Cooley May said in a note.
Huntsman expects its restructuring to add about $60 million to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) in the upcoming quarters. Fourth-quarter EBITDA was $313 million.
Net profit was $41 million, or 17 cents per share, in the quarter compared with a loss of $40 million, or 17 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time items, Huntsman earned 48 cents per share, above the analysts average estimate of 37 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Total revenue rose 3 percent to $2.71 billion, the second quarterly increase after five quarters of declines.
Huntsman’s shares were up 3 percent at $22.75 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.