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ABB Q4 profit rise tempered by dollar strength

Swiss engineer ABB reported on Thursday a smaller-than-expected rise in quarterly profit, blaming an appreciation of the U.S. dollar and warning that the negative currency effect was likely to continue this year.

Net profit rose 30 percent to $680 million in the three months through December, helped by gains from the sale of businesses, but missed an average analyst estimate for $720 million in a Reuters poll.

The Zurich-based firm said fourth-quarter orders fell 6 percent to $9.37 billion due to the strong U.S. dollar and a decline in large orders from the oil and gas sector, missing consensus for $9.94 billion.

Like rivals Siemens and Schneider Electric, ABB has grappled with a sluggish global recovery that has delayed capital spending by its customers, which include utility companies and oil, gas and mining firms, as well as a slide in oil prices.

Several oil majors including Chevron and BP have cut their 2015 spending plans after oil prices plummeted by about 40 percent during the fourth quarter.

A weaker order backlog compared with the start of the year and left their mark on the quarter, as ABB's revenue dropped 9 percent to $10.35 billion, missing consensus for $10.80 billion.

ABB, which makes products such as industrial robots and power grid transformers, warned in October that slowing growth in Europe, the Ebola health crisis in west Africa and political tensions across the globe all risked derailing more positive trends in the U.S. and Chinese economies.

With little sign of improvement, ABB cut its medium-term sales and profit goals last year, saying it saw sales growing by 4-7 percent a year between 2015 and 2020, with core profit (EBITA) margins of 11-16 percent.

ABB also said it would raise its 2014 dividend to 0.72 Swiss francs per share from 0.70 francs a year earlier.