* H1 adj EBIT 217.9 mln euros vs Rtrs poll of 220 mln euros
* Says still seeing strong demand for oil, chemical storage
* H1 capacity in use rate 92 pct vs 93 percent last year
* Vopak shares down 1.5 pct
(Adds CFO, analyst comment, details, shares)
By Aaron Gray-Block and Greg Roumeliotis
AMSTERDAM, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Vopak , the world’s largest independent storage tank operator, said it was seeing strong demand for its oil and chemical storage services but stuck to a reduced 2011 outlook on Wednesday.
“Vopak shares are down slightly this morning because earnings are a tad below consensus but the positive thing is new capacity kicking in by the end of the year that will boost earnings,” said Micha Tiekink, analyst at Rabobank.
Vopak shares were down 1.5 percent to 30.74 euros at 0710 GMT when Amsterdam’s midcap index was flat.
Vopak which offers oil, chemical and biofuel storage in major ports including Rotterdam, Fujairah, Tallinn and Singapore, said it was seeing robust demand for oil storage services, while demand for chemical storage services was strong in Asia, stable in the Americas and encouraging in Europe.
“Based on the healthy demand for tank storage, capacity expansion projects and our growth strategy, we remain well positioned to realise an EBITDA between 600-640 million euros in 2011,” chief executive Eelco Hoekstra said in a statement.
But Vopak said restrictions in railcar handling at its Deer Park facility in North America due to a dispute with a competitor hurt its growth in that region, while regulatory uncertainties in biofuels has hit its plans to expand in that business globally.
The company’s first-half earnings were boosted by the 127.8 million euro sale of its 20 percent stake in an oil terminal in the Bahamas to pipeline operator Buckeye Partners LP .
Excluding this deal and other one-off items, Vopak reported first-half earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of 217.9 million euros, down 2 percent. Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast 220 million euros.
Its occupancy rate slipped to 92 percent, from 93 percent last year, dragged down by an intensive maintenance programme which Chief Financial Officer Jack de Kreij said would last for a further 18 months.
“A healthy playing field is between 90 and 95 percent in occupancy rate and since 2008, when the crisis started, we’ve been in that range. We remain very confident we will continue to operate in that range,” De Kreij said in an interview.
Vopak aims to add 7.5 million cubic metres to its storage capacity by 2014 and targets earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of between 725 and 800 million euros in 2013.
Two of its flagship projects, the first phase of the Amsterdam Westpoort oil terminal and Gate, a liquified natural gas import terminal in Rotterdam, are due to be commissioned at the end of the third quarter and buoy second-half earnings. (Editing by Matt Driskill and Andrew Callus)