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Atlas Copco profit lags as margin squeeze offsets strong demand

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FILE PHOTO: Atlas Copco headquarters are pictured outside Stockholm
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By Helena Soderpalm

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Atlas Copco missed fourth-quarter earnings expectations on Tuesday despite strong demand, with margins pressured by continuing supply chain problems.

The Swedish manufacturer of vacuum equipment used by semiconductor producers expects near-term demand to remain at current high levels as chipmakers seek to ramp up output to resolve a global chip shortage.

However, higher costs related to supply chain constraints have squeezed margins at its Compressor Technique and Vacuum Technique divisions, the company said without disclosing the exact nature of the supply issues.

"Similar to other industrial companies that have reported, Atlas posted better orders and weak margins," Jefferies analysts said after the results announcement.

Atlas, which also makes compressors and industrial tools, said that order volumes for products such as compressors and pumps fell from the previous quarter but grew for power equipment and its services business.

"The overall order intake for Atlas Copco's products and services increased significantly compared to the previous year," Chief Executive Mats Rahmstrom said in a statement.

Like-for-like quarterly order intake rose 26% year on year to 33.5 billion Swedish crowns ($3.6 billion) compared with analyst expectations of 32.5 billion crowns.

Adjusted operating profit rose to 6.46 billion crowns from 5.4 billion a year earlier, missing the 6.62 billion mean forecast in a Refinitiv poll of analysts.

Atlas, which competes with U.S. company Ingersoll Rand and Germany's Pfeiffer Vacuum among others, raised its dividend to 7.60 crowns per share for 2021. That was more than the 7.30 crowns for 2020 but fell short of the 8.32 crowns expected by analysts.

It also proposed an extra distribution of 8 crowns per share through mandatory redemption and a 4:1 share split.

Shares in the company were down 2.2% at 1247 GMT.

($1 = 9.3116 Swedish crowns)

(Reporting by Helena SoderpalmEditing by Bernadette Baum and David Goodman)

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