April 22, 2012 / 11:13 PM / 6 years ago

Consumer electronics to brighten Philips' first quarter

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Philips Electronics (PHG.AS) is expected to report a 35 percent rise in quarterly net profit on Monday, supported by a stronger performance at its consumer electronics division after a year of disappointing results and a string of setbacks.

A woman looks at flat screen TV sets in the Philips pavilion before the opening of the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin, August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Investors want to see evidence of a turnaround at the Dutch group now that Chief Executive Frans van Houten has been in the job for a year and will be looking for signs that management changes and restructuring measures are starting to pay off.

Europe’s largest consumer electronics maker made a loss of 160 million euros in the fourth quarter of last year after a profit of 465 million a year earlier and has been cautious on prospects for 2012.

Philips shares have fallen about 30 percent in the past year, underperforming the Amsterdam index .AEX by 18 percentage points after a series of profit warnings.

Philips, the world’s biggest lighting maker, has blamed its poor performance on weak economic growth, fragile consumer spending and government budget cuts in several of its key markets.

The company, also a top-three maker of hospital equipment, has struggled to compete with lower-cost Asian makers of consumer electronics such as televisions.

Cuts to government budgets and other austerity measures in the United States and Europe have hit demand for its lighting systems and hospital equipment.

The group has embarked on a restructuring and last month sold its high-tech office campus in the Netherlands to a consortium of private investors for 425 million euros as part of its cost-cutting plans. It will lease back several of the buildings instead.

Philips also set up a television joint venture with Hong Kong-based TPV (0903.HK) to turn around the ailing television business. The head of the new venture said earlier this month that it will become profitable and eventually be a top three global TV player.

Analysts in a Reuters poll forecast first-quarter net profit of 186 million euros, up 35 percent from a year ago, on quarterly sales of 5.436 billion euros, up 3.4 percent.

Operating profit, or earnings before interest, taxes and amortization (EBITA), is forecast at 433 million euros, down one percent from a year ago.

Several of Philips’ core markets are showing low or no growth and weak consumer confidence.

The consumer business is expected to be the only one of the group’s big three divisions to show a significant improvement, with a doubling in EBITA to 239 million euros on marginally lower quarterly sales.

By contrast, operating profit for the lighting business is expected to plunge 79 percent to 41.7 million euros, while the healthcare business is seen reporting a slightly lower profit of 195 million euros.

Reporting by Sara Webb. Editing by Jane Merriman

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