UPDATE 2-Nokian Renkaat warning prompts questions on options sales

* Company lowers outlook for second time in two months

* Investors question management's sale of options in June

* Shares fall 8 pct (Recasts with investors' comments)

By Jussi Rosendahl

HELSINKI, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Finnish winter tyre specialist Nokian Renkaat cut its full-year outlook for the second time in two months on Friday, prompting the country's retail investor lobby to question the timing of executives' stock option sales.

Shares in the company were down 8 percent to 34.53 euros by 1515 GMT after it forecast full-year sales and operating profit would decline due to a slowdown in Russia, its biggest market, and a weaker rouble.

The company warned on Aug. 9 of a weaker-than-expected outlook, forecasting "flat or some growth" compared to the previous year when it booked sales of 1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion) and operating profit of 415 million euros.

The investor group said the weaker outlook raised questions over recent options sales by the Nokian management, including Chief Executive Kim Gran and Chief Financial Officer Anne Leskela. Insiders sold a combined 210,500 of stock options from May through to mid-August, just after the first profit warning, according to the company's insider register.

"They had communicated (in April) that although the market is weakening in Russia, the company would be coping well. Then they sell options and follow up with a profit warning," said Timo Rothovius, chairman of the Finnish shareholders' association and professor in finance at Vaasa University.

"It does look peculiar."

Leskela said executives did not know the full impact of the rouble's weakness and Russian slowdown when executing their options trades.

She said there had been an internal project which restricted executives from executing options earlier in the year, although she declined to give further details on what the project was.

Leskela also noted that Nokian executives have sold options in various annual programmes, usually a year before expiry.

No-one at Finland's market regulator was immediately available to comment.


The tyre maker said its third-quarter operating profit was slightly higher than a year earlier, but weaker Russian sales and a lower rouble exchange rate would weigh on results in the second half.

Nokian Renkaat books about 40 percent of its sales in roubles, and a weaker currency exchange rate against the euro lowers the value of revenue repatriated to Finland.

The company's expansion into Russia has been seen as a strength amid Europe's recession, and the shares had risen around 20 percent over the past quarter. It produces 14 million tyres a year at its main factory in Vsevolozhsk, Russia.

But the Russian economy has recently stalled, growing at its slowest pace in the second quarter since the 2009 recession due to weaker exports and subdued consumer spending.

The company said on Friday that it has gained market share in Russia and Nordics, although that was not enough to offset weak sales in Russia and Central Europe.

It added it expects to return to growth in 2014. ($1 = 0.7340 euros) (Editing by Ritsuko Ando and David Evans)