ABB Upbeat on 2008 Emerging Market Growth

Swiss engineering group ABB gave an upbeat outlook for 2008 on Thursday and said it would benefit from development of new power infrastructure in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, boosting its shares.

"The global market for power transmission and distribution infrastructure is expected to remain buoyant in 2008," the group said in a statement.

ABB said it expected growth of about 15 to 20 percent for its power-related activities, while it saw growth of around 10 percent in its automation activities.

"The fundamentals are strong. The outlook on power remains bullish.

Orders in automation were very good. Investors are likely to focus back on fundamentals after the departure of the CEO yesterday," one analyst said.

ABB cautioned that it could see a dampening of demand related to slower overall economic growth in the mature economies or early-cycle sectors.

The group is benefiting as Europe and the United States are replacing ageing power systems, while rapid economic growth in emerging economies is forcing countries such as India and China to invest heavily in power infrastructure.

Chairman Hubertus von Gruenberg sought to ease fears that Kindle's shock move would alter the group's strategy, saying there was no reason to change "a winning concept" and the board would be "ready to move" if an acquisition opportunity arose.

ABB's net cash was $5.4 billion at the end of 2007, the group said.

The group, which competes with Germany's Siemens and France's Schneider, also said on Wednesday full-year net profit rose to $3.8 billion from $1.4 billion in the previous period.

The group benefited from a gain on the sale of its Lummus Global unit and a tax benefit, which contributed to around $1 billion to the 2007 net income.

ABB, which sells equipment to utilities and to oil and gas companies, is aiming for average annual sales growth of between 8 and 11 percent for the 2007-2011 period and an operating profit margin of between 11 and 16 percent.

ABB is trading at around 16 times expected 2008 earnings, at a premium to Schneider trading at nearly 10 times, according to Reuters data.