* Does not give forecast for 2012 earnings
* Says visibility low in eastern Europe, U.S.
* 2011 net profit 9 mln euros vs 18 mln poll average
* Proposes raising dividend 20 pct to 0.12 euro/share
* Shares down 1.7 percent (Adds quotes from chief executive, details)
By Angelika Gruber
VIENNA, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Wienerberger, the world’s largest brickmaker, expects to remain profitable this year as higher prices and demand from homebuilders in France and Germany help offset a shaky outlook in eastern Europe and the United States.
The Vienna-based company did not provide a detailed outlook for 2012 after swinging to 2011 net profit of 9 million euros ($12 million) from a year-earlier loss of 67 million euro loss, but missed a Reuters poll average of 18 million.
“We had good sales volume numbers and satisfactory business in all of Europe and America,” chief executive Heimo Scheuch said on Tuesday about the start of the year.
But “visibility in two key regions -- eastern Europe and the U.S. -- is still limited,” he said.
Wienerberger’s comments echoed recent statements by Germany’s HeidelbergCement, which said demand for building materials was robust in Germany and northern Europe in 2011.
Holcim, the world’s second-largest cement maker, said last month it expected overall demand for construction materials to recover only slowly.
Wienerberger said in November it expected to grow in 2012 despite consumer uncertainty that is dampening demand in key markets such as Poland, southeastern Europe, Belgium and Britain. It said on Tuesday it plans to raise prices this year.
While the company did not say how much it expects to earn, analysts polled by Reuters expect net profit to decline to 2.7 million euros.
“What absolutely has an impact ... is of course people’s increasing uncertainty. The decision to buy an apartment or a house hinges on whether you get financing -- not everyone has the money available -- and the second thing is if you have a certain security,” Scheuch said.
“With the exception of Germany -- where we see a positive climate and assume there will be further growth in the German market -- there is uncertainty in the rest of Europe, especially in eastern Europe.”
In order to escape the cycles of the construction business Wienerberger last week agreed to buy the remaining half of plastic pipe maker Pipelife for 162 million euros.
Shares in the group have rallied off a low of 6.465 euros in November and traded down 1.7 percent at 9.33 euros at 1139 GMT.
The stock trades at more than 300 times 12-month forward earnings, a big premium to construction materials groups such as HeidelbergCement, Lafarge, Holcim and Saint-Gobain , according to Thomson Reuters StarMine, which weights analyst estimates based on the accuracy of their past estimates.
HeidelbergCement and Lafarge trade at over 13 times.
Wienerberger plans to lift its dividend for 2011 by 20 percent to 0.12 euro per share, in line with the poll average of 0.13 euro. ($1 = 0.7538 euro) (Additional reporting by Michael Shields; Writing by Peter Dinkloh; Editing by Dan Lalor and Hans-Juergen Peters)