Siemens AG <SIEGn.DE>, a bellwether for the euro zone's largest economy, announced a smaller than expected dividend and gave a cautious outlook after ending its year in a turbulent economic environment.
The Munich-based maker of products ranging from fast trains and gas turbines to light bulbs and hearing aids said on Thursday it would pay shareholders 3.00 euros per share. That was up from 2.70 euros last year but below a consensus estimate of 3.14 euros.
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Profits in the fiscal fourth quarter to September, normally the strongest period at Siemens, fell short of expectations as the company booked an impairment charge of 231 million euros ($313.8 million) for its loss-making solar energy business.
Shares of Siemens were down 0.6 percent at 71.96 euros by 0913 GMT, underperforming the German blue-chip DAX index <.GDAXI>, which was up 0.2 percent.
Chief Executive Peter Loescher was optimistic, however, for the current financial year to September 2012, saying that Europe's biggest engineering conglomerate can weather the rollercoaster ride in the euro zone.
"We are well positioned for moderate revenue growth in fiscal 2012 and surpassing the 100 billion euros revenue threshold in the medium term," Loescher said in a statement after Siemens released its quarterly results.
Siemens also said it expects new orders to exceed revenues in the current fiscal year again and forecast income from continuing operations would match the year-earlier figure of 7.01 billion euros, excluding a 1 billion euro positive effect related to Areva <AREVA.PA>. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Reuters Insider TV interview with CEO Peter Loescher: http://link.reuters.com/sev84s ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
GERMANY STILL GOOD
The operating profit of Siemens's three main businesses reached 2.17 billion euros ($2.95 billion) in the fourth quarter, while income from continuing operations swung to a profit of 1.23 billion euros from a loss of 42 million.
But quarterly new orders -- a barometer of future sales -- exceeded consensus with a 2 percent decline to 21.57 billion euros in the fourth quarter, compared with the 20.37 billion euro average estimate.
Recent data suggests the recovery in Germany, the main engine of growth in Europe, is losing speed as worries that a brewing crisis in the euro zone could drag down demand, but Loescher was upbeat.
"The environment in Germany is still good," he told Reuters Insider. "We are not forecasting a recessionary scenario."
German industrial orders in September slumped the deepest since January 2009 on sharply weaker demand from the euro zone, indicating the bloc's debt crisis is set to weigh considerably on growth in Europe's largest economy. [ID:nL5E7M34SE]
The industrial theme of still positive, but slowing growth was echoed by German engineering association VDMA, which said the slowdown in order growth was continuing. [ID:nB4E7LA02R]
Siemens's statements stood in contrast to a weaker trend set by rivals. Swiss engineer ABB <ABBN.VX> sounded a cautious note last month as it unveiled weaker-than-expected quarterly profit.
France's Schneider Electric <SCHN.PA> slashed its 2011 profit margin outlook for the second time in three months. [ID:nL5E7LK0BA] [ID:nWEA9658]
($1 = 0.736 Euros) (Reporting by Marilyn Gerlach; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)