* Linde Q3, 2014 outlook hit by impairment charges
* Medium-term targets dropped on weaker economic outlook
* Shares fall more than 6 percent in early trading (Recasts, adds analyst notes)
By Edward Taylor and Ludwig Burger
FRANKFURT, Oct 30 (Reuters) - The new boss of German gases group Linde cut the company’s full-year and medium-term profit targets on Thursday, blaming a faltering global economy and sending Linde’s shares down sharply.
The industrial gases group cut its 2014 earnings outlook, saying it now expected its core profit to come in flat. It also dumped its medium-term profit targets and said it expected an operating profit of 4.5-4.7 billion euros and a reported return on capital employed (ROCE) of 11-12 percent in 2017.
Linde, which makes gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen used by the engineering and auto industries, had originally set itself a 2016 target of achieving a group operating profit of at least 5 billion euros and a reported ROCE of around 13 percent.
The company had anticipated it would achieve a moderate improvement in group operating profit in 2014. It still expects solid growth in revenue in 2014 after adjusting for exchange rate effects.
“We have to take account of the fact that economic growth has been much weaker than we all expected,” Chief Executive Wolfgang Buechele said in a statement.
“In addition, future prospects for global economic trends have recently dulled,” he said.
Linde’s shares fell by more than 7 percent in early trading, and were the biggest fallers in a 0.4 percent higher German blue-chip DAX index. By 0838 GMT, they had pared losses to trade down 5.6 percent.
The company’s third quarter core profit fell by 2.7 percent, dented by a 229 million euro ($288 million) impairment charge related to restructuring at its gas business in China and faltering business in Brazil.
Analysts interpreted the revised guidance as an attempt by Buechele to reset expectations radically as he seeks to make his mark on a company where he took the helm five months ago.
“We think the write-offs are kitchen-sinking for the new CEO Wolfgang Buechele,” Kepler analyst Martin Roediger said in a note.
Rival Air Liquide last week reported strong sales growth in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and emerging markets, even as western Europe manufacturing continued to slow down.
U.S. rival Praxair on Wednesday predicted fourth-quarter earnings below analyst expectations.
Linde’s third-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were 1 billion euros, in line with the 1.01 billion euros forecast in an analyst poll.
Linde said it took an impairment loss of 100 million euros in China relating to parts of a plant complex in the Chongqing Chemical Park.
“The impairment was caused by a change to the structural organisation at this site, which had an impact on both the raw gas available as feedstock and the purchase volumes of the plant complex,” it said in a statement, without elaborating.
Linde said it took a further 100 million impairment loss in Brazil due to slowing growth in some countries in South America, and an 18 million-euro impairment in Vietnam.
Net profit for the quarter was 194 million euros, well below the 337 million euros achieved in the same period last year.
Baader Bank analyst Markus Mayer said: “In our view, the impairments have to be seen with the background of the CEO change and therefore we would not over interpret it.”
“However due to the impairment, we expect a negative share price reaction at the beginning of the day,” he wrote in a note.
$1 = 0.7938 euro Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Maria Sheahan, Georgina Prodhan and Jane Merriman