* Q4 operating profit misses consensus estimate
* Strong Russia sales lift 2012 profit
* Proposes dividend of 1.45 euros vs 1.33 in poll
* Shares rise 4.5 percent (Recasts with dividend, share move and analyst comment)
HELSINKI, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Finnish tyremaker Nokian Renkaat raised its dividend by 21 percent after strong sales in Russia lifted full-year profit to a record, sending its shares up 4.5 percent.
The winter tyre specialist said 2012 operating profit grew 11 percent to 415 million euros ($561 million), or 26 percent of sales - a level of profitability rare in an auto industry struggling with overcapacity.
“Their margins are excellent considering the challenging season, and the stock’s valuation is not too dangerous,” said Kim Gorschelnik, head of research at Tapiola Pankki.
As of Tuesday’s market close, the stock was trading at a price per earnings ratio of 11.5, below its historical average of 14.1.
Earnings in the fourth-quarter fell 6 percent from a year earlier, missing a consensus analyst forecast, and the company said it expected lower profit in the first quarter too.
But the dividend of 1.45 euros per share for 2012, up from 1.20 euros a year earlier, was above all analyst estimates in a Reuters poll and the company’s shares were up 4.5 percent at 33.1 euros by 1107 GMT.
Tyre inventories at retailers and manufacturers have been high in central Europe since a mild winter in 2011-2012 and overall demand has stayed weak, forcing companies to slash prices.
But Nokian Renkaat said it expected higher sales and operating profit in 2013, citing new winter tyre launches and continued growth in Russia.
The company has a factory in Vsevolozhsk with annual capacity of 14 million tyres and plans for expansion that would make it Russia’s biggest consumer goods exporter. Nokian Renkaat also owns its distribution chain in the country.
Its Russian sales grew 50 percent last year to 563 million euros, outstripping 15 percent growth in the wider market. For this year, Nokian Renkaat forecast the Russian market would expand at a slower rate of between 2 and 5 percent.
The firm was also planning a new tyre factory in central Europe but Gran said he was cancelling those plans due to an economic slowdown in the region. ($1 = 0.7392 euros) (Reporting By Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)