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ABB reports profits slump, hit by solar-wind losses

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Engineering group ABB said its profits fell in the second quarter, pulled down by renewable energy activities, despite strong orders, particularly in North America.

The group, a leading provider of power systems, said it was working hard to turnaround its loss-making solar and wind-power businesses amid a weak renewable energy market.

The Swiss-Swedish group said net profit fell nearly 17.0 percent compared to last year to $636 million (472 million euros).

That fell short of analysts' expectations of $698 million, as polled by the AWP financial news agency.

Sales were flat at $10.1 billion, slightly below the figure forecast by analysts of $10.2 billion.

But orders taken were higher-than-expected, rising 13.0 percent to $10.5 billion.

Sales rose by 29.0 percent in the Americas, driven by a big contract in Canada for energy transmission equipment, a double-digit rise in orders in the United States and a surge of activity in Brazil.

Chief executive Ulrich Spiesshofer said in October the group had set out to boost growth through "penetration, innovation and expansion".

He said on Wednesday that "our focused actions are paying off and support overall increased order momentum. In the second quarter we saw encouraging growth in our two largest markets, the US and China."

In Europe, the group's biggest market, the rate of new orders rose in Russia, the Netherlands and Germany, but fell in Norway, Britain and France.

Although orders by the energy systems division rose, the activities generated a gross operating loss of $14 million, mainly because of charges from solar and wind-power projects.

Spiesshofer told a telephone press conference that the group was doing all it could to make the business profitable.

ABB in April presented measures to speed-up the turnaround at this division, the smallest and least-profitable in the group, including management changes and avoiding tenders for solar energy projects.

ABB, like its rivals, has suffered badly from delays in solar and wind-power projects as weak economic growth in many of its markets have made energy providers less keen on renewable energies.

ABB said it saw some positive signs for activity in the United States but there was uncertainty about the speed and strength of economic growth in emerging countries.

The outlook in Europe varied from one country to another, it said.

At the Zurich Cantonal Bank, analyst Richard Frei said that the outlook was not particularly optimistic, noting that the company had not given any figures for its forecasts.

ABB said orders in hand totalled $27.1 billion at the end of June, down five percent from a year ago, but five percent higher than at the end of 2013.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140723/abb-reports-profits-slump-hit-solar-wind-losses