PREVIEW-Mexico's Cemex may post narrower loss in Q4
* WHAT: Cement maker Cemex fourth-quarter results * WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 2 before market open * REUTERS ESTIMATE: net loss of $198 million By Gabriela Lopez MEXICO CITY, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Mexican cement maker Cemex is expected to post a narrower loss in the fourth quarter as asset sales and a payment from the Venezuelan government helped the company lower its debt and meet obligations. A Reuters poll among six analysts showed that Cemex may have lost $198 million in the October-to-December period, an improvement over the $574 million loss recorded in the same quarter of 2010. Cemex, one of the world's biggest cement-makers, got a $240 million cash compensation in the fourth quarter from a claim settlement over President Hugo Chavez's 2008 nationalization of the Mexican company's business in Venezuela. The payment, along with other asset sales and improved operating profit in the period, should have helped Cemex to meet a December covenant, tightly watched by the market. "The fact that Cemex meets that covenant and better global financial conditions should continue helping the positive trend of the stock short term," said Santander analyst Gonzalo Fernandez. Cemex, one of a small group of Mexican companies with a global presence, expanded from a small family business into more than 50 countries due to aggressive acquisitions. But the shopping spree came to a halt as its $16 billion purchase of Australian rival Rinker in 2007 got tangled in the collapse of the U.S. housing market shortly afterward. Cemex's share price has more than doubled since plunging to 3.25 pesos on Oct. 4, its lowest level in 13 years, as investors dumped the stock on rising concerns about its ability to meet debt obligations. On Monday, its shares edged up 0.46 percent to close at 8.70 pesos while its New York-traded shares slipped 0.15 percent to $6.72. Cemex's stock price rebound during the last quarter of 2011 should also have helped the company to generate gains from derivatives, which will lift the bottom line, analysts said. Following is a table with the average expected results. All figures in dollars. 2011 2010 PERCENTAGE OCT-DEC OCT-DEC CHANGE SALES 3.523 bln 3.492 bln + 0.89 pct EBIDTA 529 mln 482 mln + 9.75 pct OP.PROFIT 180 mln 126 mln +42.86 pct NET PROFIT -198 mln -574 mln n/a ($1 = 13.9725 pesos as of end December) (Reporting by Gabriela Lopez; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)
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