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Fiat Industrial 4Q profits soar 20 pct

Colleen Barry, AP Business Writer

MILAN (AP) -- Italian heavy-duty vehicles maker Fiat Industrial said Thursday that solid sales of tractors and combine harvesters offset lower performance of its truck business to push fourth-quarter earnings up 20 percent.

Based in the northern city of Turin, Fiat Industrial SpA reported net profit in the period of €148 million ($200 million), up from €123 million a year earlier. Revenues were €7 billion.

Sales of farm equipment were up 20 percent, which offset a more difficult business conditions for the construction business everywhere but North America and eastern Europe. The Iveco truck business, however, saw a 7 percent decline in revenues due to the economic crisis in Europe and falling demand in Latin America.

For the full year, net profit grew 30 percent to €810 million on revenues of €25.8 billion.

Fiat Industrial, which is in the process of a full merger with its U.S.-based CNH farm and construction subsidiary, forecast a 5 percent increase in revenues this year, and recommended a total dividend payment of €275 million, or €0.225 a share.

The merger deal will create the world's third-largest capital goods company by sales, after Caterpillar and Volvo.

Fiat Industrial had aggressively pursued the full merger of the 12 percent of CNH that it didn't already own, making a pitch in the spring and then raising the value of the offer by more than 25 percent after CNH advisers refused to endorse the deal. The new company, which has yet to be named, will be based in the Netherlands and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The merger is expected to close in the second quarter of next year.

Besides CNH, Fiat Industrial, based in the northern Italian city of Turin, comprises Iveco truck and heavy vehicle company and FPT Industrial powertrains. CNH, which is based in the Chicago suburb of Burr Ridge, Illinois, sells farm and construction equipment under the Case and New Holland brands in 170 countries.