* Fourth quarter is usually Husqvarna’s slowest
* Local-currency sales up 13% in the quarter
* Stay-at-home trend and lusher greenery boosted sales
* Proposes raised dividend of 2.40 Swedish crowns (Adds CEO comment, detail, background)
STOCKHOLM, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Swedish gardening power tools maker Husqvarna said on Wednesday that 2021 had started well after sales in its usually weak fourth quarter jumped 13% thanks to coronavirus lockdowns and warmer weather.
The world’s biggest maker of machines such as robotic lawn mowers, garden watering systems and garden tractors typically does the bulk of it business towards the end of the first quarter and in the second - ahead of and during the peak gardening season in the northern hemisphere.
Over the past six months, however, people under lockdown have invested more on their homes while good weather conditions prolonged the gardening season in Europe and North America.
Husqvarna reported a 13% local-currency sales jump for the fourth quarter driven manly by robotics and battery-powered products, handheld products and watering solutions.
“We have benefited to some extent from the trend to stay at home but also from favourable weather conditions,” Chief Executive Henric Andersson told Reuters. “The grass was growing for a longer time.”
He said that 2021 would be marked by uncertainty due to the pandemic although the year had started well in terms of interest from retailers.
“We need to stay agile and adaptable - we need to make sure to be prepared for however the market develops,” he said, adding that the company was preparing for different scenarios.
Operating losses for the quarter came in at 944 million crowns ($113 million) including 815 million in costs for supply chain efficiency measures, up from 493 million a year earlier and broadly in line with expectations.
The rival to Black & Decker, Honda Motor and Fiskars proposed a dividend of 2.40 crowns per share for 2020, up from 2.25 crowns for 2019.
$1 = 8.3943 Swedish crowns Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Johannes Hellstrom, Simon Johnson and David Clarke