* Q1 operating profit 3 mln euros vs 9.6 mln in poll
* Outokumpu sees Q2 result at breakeven or slightly negative
* Deliveries up, shares rise some 3 pct
* SSAB’s profit beats expectations (Adds analyst’s comments, details on SSAB and Inoxum)
HELSINKI, April 27 (Reuters) - Shares in Finnish stainless steel maker Outokumpu rose on Friday as investors took an increase in deliveries as a sign long-term recovery was on its way, looking beyond a first-quarter profit fall on weaker demand in debt crisis-hit Europe.
Swedish speciality steelmaker SSAB’s stronger-than-expected profit also raised hopes that demand was stabilising across the industry and the company said it was confident it could hike prices in Europe despite economic gloom.
Outokumpu’s January-March operating profit was 3 million euros ($3.97 million), down from 33 million euros a year ago, showing the tough task ahead as it plans to buy and turn around ThyssenKrupp’s stainless steel business, Inoxum.
Outokumpu’s operating profit missed an average forecast of 9.6 million euros in a Reuters analyst poll, but Swedbank analyst Erkki Vesola said he was somewhat reassured by a 6 percent rise in deliveries - a possible sign of stronger demand.
The shares rose 3.1 percent to 1.24 euros by 0827 GMT.
The company said it would break even or post a slight loss in the second quarter. It also cited the impact of lower stainless steel base prices, which fell to 1,185 euros per tonne from 1,215 euros a year earlier, in the first quarter.
SSAB posted a larger-than-expected quarterly operating profit of 479 million crowns ($71.34 million), beating market expectations and sending shares up around 7 percent.
SSAB, which specialises in high-strength steels, said it expected a recovery in demand in the United States - which makes up around 40 percent of sales - to continue.
Although Europe - which accounts for a further 40 percent of revenues - is still mired in a debt crisis which has hit demand, SSAB said it expected to be able to raise prices in the region.
Outokumpu announced its planned 2.7 billion euro acquisition of Inoxum in January, aiming to boost profitability and fend off Asian rivals. The deal is expected to close later this year.
Some see the merger as a good chance for Outokumpu to beat out rivals and cut overcapacity, but analysts have also warned the deal was costly.
Outokumpu said it was cutting 150 to 200 jobs at mills in Finland and the Netherlands to improve its finances.
Earlier on Friday, Japan’s Nippon Steel Corp reported a quarterly profit, beating its forecast for a loss, as recovering Japanese car production offset slower export demand. ($1 = 0.7559 euros) ($1 = 6.7144 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Helsinki Newsroom; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)