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COPENHAGEN, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Wind turbine maker Vestas reported a bigger-than-expected fall in fourth-quarter operating profit on Wednesday and said it expected margins to fall this year as competition picks up and government subsidies decline.
Vestas bounced back from the brink of bankruptcy in 2012, but an industry switch to awarding contracts via auctions and a cut in government support has hit prices, leading the Danish firm's shares to fall around 20 percent over the past year.
"2017 was a year that saw fierce competition, price pressure and the continued maturity of the wind energy sector," said chief executive Anders Runevad in a statement.
Orders in the quarter came in at 3,844 megawatts (MW) with a value of 2.9 billion euros ($3.6 billion), below the 4,375 MW worth 3.5 billion expected by analysts.
Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of 385 million euros also fell short of the 424 million forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.
In 2018, Vestas said it expected its EBIT margin to fall to 9-11 percent from 12.4 percent on sales of 10-11 billion euros versus its 2017 tally of 10.0 billion.
Vestas also updated its long-term outlook to an EBIT-margin of at least 10 percent from previously "best-in-class margins".
At 0805 GMT, its shares were down 0.8 percent at 401.70 Danish crowns.
($1 = 0.8082 euros)
(Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)