November 30, 2012 / 12:10 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-RHI AG CEO sees steel sector upturn from Q2 2013

* CEO sees 2012 EBIT margin rising to around 9.5 pct

* Reiterates sees stable 2013 sales, higher margin

* Brazil plans still on ice given import duties (Adds quotes and background)

VIENNA, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Austrian fireproof materials maker RHI expects its fourth-quarter results to weaken somewhat from the “really fantastic” levels it generated in the first three quarters as a steel sector slump hits home, Chief Executive Franz Struzl said.

But he told reporters on Friday its 2012 operating margin would still rise to around 9.5 percent and reiterated the group expected stable sales and a higher operating margin in 2013 as a steel upturn sets in from the middle of the second quarter.

RHI had this month forecast rising operating profit margins this year and next when reporting third-quarter operating profit that jumped 44.4 percent to 56.6 million euros.

RHI generates nearly two-thirds of its sales from the steel sector, a proportion Struzl said would decline in years ahead.

He stuck to the group’s mid-term goal of boosting operating margins to at least 12 percent, and said RHI also aimed to increase its dividend payout ratio from last year’s 25 percent.

RHI shares slipped 0.3 percent to 22.94 euros by 1208 GMT, against a 0.5 percent rise in the Austrian benchmark ATX.

Struzl said RHI would need acquisitions to hit its target of 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) in annual sales but said while it was in talks with potential partners in India nothing was imminent there despite media reports to the contrary.

RHI was keen to produce in the United States and was evaluating its options there, including potential “brownfield” projects. It expected to decide next year on its plans, which could need investments of around 50 million euros, he said.

Struzl was also working on a new strategy for Russia and Ukraine and said he could not rule out producing in Russia in the longer term, not least given its supply of raw materials.

He said RHI’s plans in Brazil were still “on ice” given punitive anti-dumping import duties. It was looking at various options, including finding partners with access to raw materials.

RHI had around 10 million euros in “stranded” investments in Brazil, but could proced quickly with its production plans if it won access to the raw materials it needs, he said.

RHI had said in September it was rethinking its plans for a new plant in Brazil after the country raised import duties and introduced new anti-dumping duties in a bid to protect local manufacturers and revive its economy. ($1 = 0.7705 euros) (Reporting by Michael Shields)

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