May 9, 2014 / 7:41 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 2-Vestas returns to profit as turnaround gains traction

* Q1 EBIT 40 mln euros vs 29.9 mln loss seen in poll

* Vestas first quarter is a turning point - analyst

* Keeps 2014 outlook unchanged

* Vestas shares jump 8.4 pct to 3-1/2 year high (Adds CFO and analyst quotes, more background)

By Shida Chayesteh

COPENHAGEN, May 9 (Reuters) - Danish wind turbine maker Vestas made an unexpected return to profit in the first quarter, with a big rise in orders suggesting its turnaround drive is gaining traction.

Vestas shares rose as much as 8.4 percent to a 3-1/2 year high of 267 Danish crowns on Friday, after the company reported an 84 percent jump in orders in the first three months of the year.

“Vestas’ first quarter was better than expected in almost all areas, marking a definitive turning point and the final proof that Vestas is out of the crisis,” Sydbank analyst Jacob Pedersen said.

“The only hair in the soup is lowered earnings per order, even though they had much more orders than expected,” he added.

Vestas has shed more than 5,000 jobs, closed plants and sold unprofitable businesses in a far-reaching restructuring after overcapacity and cut-throat competition hammered many renewable energy companies.

The firm, which last year posted its third annual loss in a row, is now aiming to push into emerging markets like China, India and Brazil.

It made a first-quarter operating profit before special items of 40 million euros ($55 million) compared with a loss of 108 million in the same period last year. Analysts had on average expected a 29.9 million euro loss.

Orders rose to 1,188 megawatt (MW), above a forecast 950 MW.

“The result was what we planned for and according to expectations. We basically improved on all parameters,” Chief Financial Officer Marika Fredriksson told Reuters.

At the end of March, Vestas had net cash of 476 million euros, an improvement of 1.45 billion euros on the same time last year and helped in part by a capital increase in February.

The company’s improved financial position may be a factor behind the pick up in orders, which came from around the world, including Germany, Italy, Finland and North America.

After a five-fold increase in 2013, Vestas’ share price has risen by more than 50 percent this year, outperforming the Danish benchmark index.

At 1215 GMT, the shares were up 6.6 percent at 262.4 crowns.

The company repeated its expectations for 2014 revenue of at least 6 billion euros, and said it still predicted an operating profit margin before special items of at least 5 percent and free cash flow of at least 300 million euros.

Fredriksson declined to detail Vestas’ growth plans for China, where the wind turbine market is dominated by local companies.

“We are estimating a fair share of the Chinese market amongst non-Chinese players,” she said.

$1 = 0.7214 Euros Reporting by Shida Chayesteh and Teis Jensen, additional reporting by Annabella Nielsen. Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter

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