(Comments from CEO and CFO, shares)
Feb 9 (Reuters) - Swedish outdoor equipment maker Husqvarna posted a smaller than expected fourth-quarter operating loss helped by strong sales growth in North America for its smallest division, Construction.
* Husqvarna, which competes with the likes of Stanley Black & Decker, Deere and Toro, posted Q4 net sales 5.8 bln SEK ($655 million) vs year-ago 5.7 bln and Reuters poll 6.0 bln.
* Q4 operating loss 108 mln SEK vs a year-ago loss of 212 mln and Reuters poll -134 mln.
* The fourth quarter is Husqvarna’s seasonally weakest and accounts for only roughly 15 percent of annual sales for the maker of outdoor power tools such as lawn mowers and trimmers.
* Says in particular there were strong improvements in the Consumer Brands and Construction Divisions,
* Construction unit Q4 EBIT 145 mln SEK vs Reuters poll 99 mln, Consumer brands Q4 EBIT -128 mln vs Reuters poll -142 mln.
* Husqvarna shares drop 0.3 percent at 0851 GMT vs 0.1 rise in the Stockholm OMXS All Share Index
* Says on Construction: Sales in North America showed good growth in the fourth quarter, operating income positively affected by volume improvement and a non-recurring item related to pensions of some 25 mln SEK
* CEO Kai Warn to Reuters: Says expects Construction unit to grow in higher range of 3-5 pct in 2017, Consumer brands unit expected to have flat development.
* CEO says still expects growth of 3-5 pct in 2017 for Gardena and Husqvarna units.
* CEO says still possible for company to reach margin goal of 10 pct in 2017, or the latest 2018.
* CFO Jan Ytterberg to Reuters: Says expects currency effects to be slightly positive in 2017, raw materials slightly negative
* Says the positive effect on operating income from efficiency improvements was partly offset by the negative effect from the lower sales and investments in growth initiatives.
* Proposes a dividend of SEK 1.95 SEK/ share vs year-ago 1.65 SEK and Reuters poll 1.72 SEK. Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage: ($1 = 8.8583 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Rebecka Roos, editing by Johannes Hellstrom)