February 27, 2020 / 8:09 AM / in a month

UPDATE 1-Engie eyes profit rise amid management overhaul

(Recasts and writes through with goals, details)

PARIS, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Engie on Thursday set a slightly higher than expected core profit goal for this year, when the French energy utility will come under heightened scrutiny over its strategy after ousting CEO Isabelle Kocher.

The utility has been in the spotlight due to its weaker share price performance compared to some European rivals.

The company, under interim top management with Chairman Jean-Pierre Clamadieu at the helm, said it was targeting earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation (EBITDA) of between 10.5 billion and 10.9 billion euros ($11.85 billion) this year.

Analysts polled by Refinitiv expected EBITDA of 10.5 billion euros in 2020. Earnings grew 6.8% last year to 10.4 billion euros.

Engie added that net recurring income, which strips out some one-offs, would reach 2.7 billion to 2.9 billion euros in 2020, after hitting 2.7 billion euros in 2019, in line with its goals.

The group also outlined a further 4 billion euros in unspecified asset sales by 2022 after selling off some 15 billion euros worth of businesses in the past three years.

Engie is expected to appoint a new CEO at some point this year. Its board voted not to award Kocher, the only female boss of a blue-chip French company, a second mandate earlier in February amid internal disagreements over strategy.

The company’s interim managers, which include Financial Chief Judith Hartmann, will “set up a roadmap to simplify, clarify and strengthen our business model,” Clamadieu said in a statement.

The French government, with a 24% stake in the firm formerly known as GDF Suez, has said it has no plan to dismantle the group.

Engie’s 2019 sales and underlying profits were boosted by a restart of all the group’s Belgian nuclear reactors and a strong performance in energy management, where it renegotiated gas supply contracts.

It also made acquisitions in areas like services.

Net profit was stable at 1 billion euros from a year earlier, held back by charges linked to the Belgian nuclear business.

$1 = 0.9201 euros Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Sarah White; Editing by Hugh Lawson and David Evans

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