* Q4 organic sales growth rises to 9 pct
* Q4 EBIT 174 mln euros vs mean forecast 168 mln
* CEO says strong demand has continued into Q1 (Adds CEO comments, details, background, shares)
STOCKHOLM, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Measurement technology and software group Hexagon posted forecast-beating earnings on Friday and said like-for-like sales growth had picked up on the back of strong growth in energy related software sales and from the electronics industry.
Hexagon share rose 6.9 percent to a new record high at 0917 GMT, the top performer in the STOXX Europe 600 Industrial Goods and Services Index, which was down 0.2 percent.
“Demand in January has continued in the same way as in the fourth quarter, so at the moment there is reason to believe that this trend will continue,” Hexagon Chief Executive Ola Rollen told a conference call with reporters.
Operating earnings at the group, which sells under brands such as Leica Geosystems, Intergraph as well as its own name, rose to 174 million euros ($199 million) in the fourth quarter from a year-ago 137 million to top a mean forecast of 168 million in a Reuters poll of analysts.
The company, market leader in a specialised sector straddling software and engineering hardware, said like-for-like sales grew 9 percent year-on-year, compared with the 8 percent growth seen in the third quarter.
A driver behind the profit improvement was strong growth in software sales in Hexagon’s PP&M unit, which sells into industries such as chemicals, oil & gas and shipbuilding, defying worries its oil-related business could be hit by the recent plunge in crude prices.
Around 7 percent of Hexagon’s sales go into the oil & gas industry, but only a small part stems from oil extraction customers. Another strong growth engine was the electronics industry, where sales to makers of smartphones, tablets, and wearables make up the bulk of the business.
Hexagon also said it was taking action to mitigate the negative effects from the strengthening Swiss franc after the currency’s ceiling versus the euro was abandoned in January.
“We will cut staff in Switzerland and we will switch Swiss suppliers for European, Asian and American,” Rollen said. ($1 = 0.8725 euros) (Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; editing Niklas Pollard)