Atlas Copco Profit Matches Estimates as Demand Seen Falling

Atlas Copco AB (ATCOA), the world’s largest maker of air compressors, reported quarterly profit in line with analysts’ estimates as global manufacturing slows.

Fourth-quarter net income rose to 3.37 billion kronor ($495 million) from 2.91 billion kronor a year earlier, the Stockholm- based company said in a statement. Profit was equal to the average estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 15 analysts. Sales rose 15 percent to 22.3 billion kronor.

“The demand situation is a mixed picture,” Chief Executive Officer Ronnie Leten said today in an interview. “Europe and China are uncertain while North and South America are doing fine.”

Atlas Copco, which benefits when metals prices are high because miners buy more rock drills and blast-hole rigs, said near-term demand will probably “weaken somewhat,” reiterating a forecast from October. The company will continue to boost investments in China even in an economic slowdown, while it may slow expenditure in other markets, Leten said in October. China overtook the U.S. as Atlas Copco’s biggest market in 2009.

Atlas Copco fell as much as 2.1 percent to 161.3 kronor and traded down 1.9 percent at 5:08 p.m. in Stockholm. That pared the stock’s gain in the past 12 months to 4.5 percent, valuing the manufacturer at 191.8 billion kronor.

Leten plans to continue adding employees, mostly service engineers, “all over the world” unless the economy deteriorates significantly, the CEO said. Atlas Copco, cut 6,000 jobs in the recession that started 2008, is likely to have a larger workforce a year from now, Leten, a 55-year-old Belgian national, said.

SKF AB (SKFB), the world’s biggest maker of ball bearings, predicted on Jan. 26 that worldwide demand will be little changed in the first quarter, even as European customers in the transport industry curtail investments.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ola Kinnander in Stockholm at okinnander@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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