* Q4 op. profit 256 mln euros vs 260 mln forecast in poll
* Sees 2013 op. profit at 840-920 mln vs 938 mln in poll
* Proposes dividend of 1.75 euros per share for 2012 (Adds share reaction, analyst comments, details on outlook)
HELSINKI, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Finnish lift and escalator maker Kone will grow less than expected by investors this year, a profit forecast showed on Thursday after quarterly earnings also just fell short.
Kone said it expected full-year 2013 sales to grow 5-9 percent and operating profit to be around 840-920 million euros ($1.12-$1.22 billion). Analysts on average expected 2013 operating profit of 938 million euros, according to a Reuters poll.
Kone said price competition remained intense in most markets. The market in Europe was expected to decline this year and, while it forecast clear growth in Asia, it said decision-makers were delaying investment decisions.
“The company is known for its conservative guidance and it might hike guidance in mid-year as it often has, but this does not give much room to hike consensus estimates,” said Pareto analyst Jari Harjunpaa.
The October-December operating profit increased almost 10 percent to 255.6 million euros, but missed the market’s average forecast of 260 million euros.
It said operating income was burdened by deliveries of projects booked in 2010 and 2011 with lower margins, particularly in North America. Fixed costs also rose further.
Sales in the quarter stood at 1.86 billion euros, slightly beating the average estimate in the poll.
Shares in Kone were 2.6 percent lower at 57.50 euros by 1117 GMT. It had cut its 2012 full-year profit guidance in October, citing weakness in world construction markets.
“Considering the quite high valuation of the company, it must show some good performance. The share reaction is justified,” added Harjunpaa.
As of Wednesday, Kone’s enterprise value/EBITDA ratio was 15.0, compared to 15.5 for Swiss-based competitor Schindler Holding AG. ($1 = 0.7530 euros) (Reporting by Helsinki Newsroom, editing by Patrick Lannin)