Piaggio 2013 weak as expected, new industrial plan in focus

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian motorcycle and scooter maker Piaggio on Thursday reported a 57 percent fall in full-year adjusted net profit, roughly in line with expectations, hit by a sharp drop in sales of two-wheel vehicles and currency effects.

Piaggio's sales have contracted in Europe along with an overall slump in the automotive sector as economic woes and uncertainty around jobs squeezed spending. The group was also hit by worse-than-expected trends in Asia and currency moves.

Analysts said, however, they expect Piaggio to benefit from a recovery that is slowly gaining momentum across Europe and to boost its profitability in Asia, where it already has a strong foothold.

The company, which also produces three-wheelers and other light commercial vehicles and operates plants in Italy, Spain, India and Vietnam, is due to unveil an industrial plan for 2014-2017 later on Thursday.

"The results came more or less in line with expectations, although the main focus is the industrial plan and how the company expects to capitalise on the market recovery in Europe," a Milan-based analyst said.

Shares in Piaggio, currently at their highest since September 2011, were up 1 percent at 2.59 euros by 1203 GMT, against a 0.2 percent dip in Italy's Automobiles & Parts index <.FTIT3300>.

The maker of the iconic Vespa scooter and Aprilia motorcycles said 2013 adjusted net profit fell to 18.1 million euros (15 million pounds), from 42.1 million the previous year, below a Thomson Reuters SmartEstimate of 20 million euros.

Net profit was adjusted to exclude non-recurring charges of 24.6 million euros related to outstanding tax fees. Including the charges, Piaggio would have posted a net loss of 6.5 million euros for 2013.

Consolidated net sales dropped to 1.21 billion euros from 1.41 billion euros, in line with analyst expectations. Currency effects, particular because of the weakness of the Indian rupee, had a negative effect worth 53 million euros, the company added.

Piaggio said European sales of two-wheelers had contracted for a sixth consecutive year and in key markets Spain and Italy had fallen 70 percent since 2007. Sales in that segment also fell in double-digits in Vietnam and Thailand, the group added.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak)

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