October 30, 2018 / 6:29 AM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 2-Geberit warns trade tensions dampen outlook for building industry

* Sees lower sales growth in some markets in coming quarters

* Says fundamentals solid for building sector, no overall decline

* Stock loses 9 percent, worst performer in European sector (Adds CEO comments, analyst and share price reaction)

By John Revill

ZURICH, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Swiss plumbing supplies maker Geberit lowered its full-year sales outlook on Tuesday, saying fears of a global trade war and rising interest rates were dampening growth in the building industry.

The company's shares fell 9 percent as it also missed third-quarter earnings forecasts.

Geberit, which supplies pipes and fittings for plumbers and makes toilets with bidet functions, is seen as a key indicator of the health of the broader construction industry in Europe.

It said it expects greater volatility in the months ahead due to fears that rising trade tensions between the United States and China could spill into the broader economy where new building projects could be paused or scrapped.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday warned that he has billions of dollars worth of new tariffs ready to slap on China if a deal with Beijing is not possible.

Although Geberit said it did not expect the building sector to turn negative as a result of these tensions, it forecast slightly lower growth in the coming quarters.

"We are seeing more volatility in local building industries that is very much driven by the uncertainties around the development of the global economy on the back of trade war-related uncertainties," Chief Executive Christian Buhl said.

"Overall I don't expect a negative building industry, it is a more volatile industry with lower growth rates in selected markets," Buhl said.

BREXIT, ITALY ADD TO JITTERS

He also said tightening monetary policy as well as economic instability in countries like Turkey, Russia and South Africa was weighing on building projects.

Geberit's third-quarter sales in Russia fell by 19 percent and in the Gulf region by 27 percent following increases in the first half.

Sales in Scandinavia, Austria, France and Benelux also fell during the quarter and are expected to remain difficult, the company said.

Geberit depends on Europe for 92 percent of its sales and said it expected conditions to also be tough in Britain given uncertainty about the terms of the country's exit from the European Union, and in Italy where the anti-establishment government is at loggerheads with the EU over its budget.

The company's stock was the worst performer of the STOXX Europe 600 Construction Index after it said third-quarter net profit rose to 145.6 million Swiss francs ($145 million), short of a Reuters poll forecast of 160 million francs.

Sales of 740.7 million francs also missed forecasts for 760 million francs.

"Geberit has a strong presence in many markets and they are a well-run company, so when they say growth is slowing down it is likely to be an issue for the whole building industry and not just Geberit," said Bernd Pomrehn, an analyst at Bank Vontobel in Zurich.

"The slowdown is very likely to affect other building companies, particularly those in the new build and residential sectors, which are more likely to be affected than renovation which is traditionally more resilient."

$1 = 1.0017 Swiss francs Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Susan Fenton

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