UPDATE 1-Subsea 7 axes dividend, sees lower 2015 earnings
* Hit by impairments of $1.27 bln
* Drops dividend to handle difficult market outlook
* Core Q4 earnings in line
* Shares down 2.6 pct (Adds detail, analyst comment, share price)
OSLO, March 4 (Reuters) - Oil services company Subsea 7 swung to a surprise fourth-quarter operating loss and has suspended dividend payments because of an expected decline in sales and earnings margins in difficult market conditions this year.
The Oslo-listed business, which focuses on the North Sea, Brazil and West Africa, on Wednesday posted a $1.1 billion fourth-quarter operating loss, hit by impairments.
That compared with expectations for a $194 million profit in a Reuters poll of analysts and the $112 million earned in the same period a year earlier.
The company took a non-cash goodwill charge of $1.18 billion after a downward revision of forecast activity levels as demand from the oil industry continues to fall in the face of weak crude prices. It also took an $89 million impairment charge mainly associated with a vessel and some equipment.
"Reflecting challenges facing the oil and gas industry in the near to medium term, and to preserve the Group's financial flexibility so that it can benefit from opportunities that may arise during the downturn, the board of directors will not recommend a dividend," a company statement said. Continuación...