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UPDATE 2-Sweden's Assa Abloy looks to vaccines to unlock recovery

* Q4 adjusted op profit down 14%

* Cost cuts helped support margins

* Proposes higher dividend, shares rise (Adds CEO comment, background, updates shares)

STOCKHOLM, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Sweden’s Assa Abloy, the world’s biggest lockmaker, missed fourth-quarter adjusted operating profit forecasts on Friday as the impact of restrictions outweighed cost-cutting efforts.

Chief Executive Nico Delvaux said that business should pick up from the middle of the year once vaccination programmes started to have an impact and lockdowns ease.

“Then as of the summer and the second half of the year we should start to see a good improvement. That’s our assumption,” Delvaux told Reuters, referring to the overall market.

Commercial demand had picked up slightly in January from the fourth quarter in the United States and Europe, Delvaux told analysts and media in a call. Assa Abloy proposed a higher than expected dividend of 3.90 crowns per share for 2020, up from 3.85 crowns for 2019.

Its shares were up 3.75% at 1145 GMT, taking a year-to-date rise to around 11%.

Operating profit before restructuring costs fell 14% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier to 3.48 billion crowns ($411 million), just below the 3.63 billion forecast by analysts, Refinitiv SmartEstimate showed. Organic sales at the company, which has had a high pace of acquisitions, were down 5%.

The group’s Global Technologies division, whose products range from ID badges and readers to hotel room entrance cards, suffered in particular as people stayed at home more due to the pandemic.

Cost cuts and strong residential demand in core markets helped cushion the impact at group level, the company said.

“The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to much weaker and volatile demand in 2020,” Delvaux said in a statement.

“As the vaccine programme is rolled out, we expect restrictions to be gradually phased out, trust and mobility to return and demand in general to improve.” ($1 = 8.4686 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; editing by Johannes Hellstrom and Keith Weir)

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