April 23, 2020 / 10:00 AM / a month ago

Atlas Copco warns of sharp demand fall after first-quarter earnings beat

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Atlas Copco (ATCOa.ST), Sweden’s most valuable listed company, forecast a steep demand drop in the second quarter due to the raging pandemic as it reported earnings and order intake above market expectations for the first three months of 2020.

The maker of compressors, vacuum pumps and industrial tools, said the impact from COVID-19 had been increasingly felt during the quarter, hitting Europe and North America toward the end.

“The current economic situation makes the outlook very uncertain, but demand is expected to deteriorate significantly in most industries and regions,” the company said in a statement.

Atlas Copco’s sombre demand outlook was widely anticipated by investors as the novel coronavirus has led to widespread plant shutdowns globally across a wide range of industries.

The company reported quarterly adjusted operating earnings of 5.12 billion Swedish crowns (410.74 million pounds), up from 5.05 billion in the year-ago quarter, and above the 4.97 billion mean forecast in a Refinitiv analyst poll.

Order intake was 28.0 billion, down 2% organically but well ahead of the 25.4 billion seen by analysts, with Atlas pointing to strong development for vacuum equipment, frequently sold to the world’s top makers of data chips.

“We are helped by being a global, diversified company, present in almost all industries, but we are in no way immune to the economic impact this crisis might lead to,” CEO Mats Rahmstrom said.

“We plan for different scenarios and have action plans for each of them.”

Atlas Copco shares were down 0.1% at 0943 GMT.

Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; editing by Niklas Pollard

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