January 29, 2019 / 12:47 PM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil's Cielo targets up to $691 mln profit in 2019, vs $883 mln in 2018

(Adds more CEO comments, context, share price)

By Carolina Mandl

SAO PAULO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Brazil’s Cielo SA is targeting profit of between 2.3 billion reais and 2.6 billion reais ($612 million to $691 million) this year, down from 3.3 billion reais ($883 million) in 2018, the card processor said in a securities filing on Tuesday.

The company would currently rather grow or maintain its market share than seek profitability, Chief Executive Officer Paulo Caffarelli said during a conference call with journalists.

He said profit was only likely to start growing in 2020.

Still, the company will maintain a payout ratio of between 70 percent and 100 percent of its profit in 2019.

In morning trading, Cielo shares were down 3 percent at 10.57 reais.

Caffarelli’s statement underscores a shift in the strategy of the company, which has been losing market share to upstarts such as PagSeguro Digital Ltd and StoneCo Ltd. To fight back competitors, Cielo is lowering its pricing.

“Cielo’s new strategy aims at the company’s perpetuity,” Caffarelli said.

To keep or grow its market share, Caffarelli said the company may seek acquisitions in digital businesses, but did not name potential targets.

Caffarelli took the reins of Cielo in November, when he resigned as CEO of state-owned bank Banco do Brasil SA .

Brazil’s largest card processor on Monday posted a net income of 724.1 million reais in the fourth quarter, down 30.6 percent from a year earlier. That was below an analyst consensus of 892.3 million reais, according to Refinitiv data.

$1 = 3.7603 reais Reporting by Carolina Mandl; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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