* Profits expected to grow at simliar pace in coming years
* Likely to appoint new CEO in next few weeks (Updates after CFO call, shares opening)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Belgium’s Solvay forecast on Monday its profits would grow at a similar rate in 2019-2021 to the previous three-year period, with highest expansion in its advanced plastics and chemicals divisions.
The group, which manufactures products in more than 60 countries, has been streamlining its business to focus more on specific applications in aerospace, automotive and the oil and gas industry where it can achieve higher margins.
The company said it saw growth of between 6 percent and 9 percent in underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for the period 2019-2021.
The outlook, which excludes the impact of foreign exchange movements and changes in the company’s make-up, compares with a target of mid- to high-single digit percentage growth for 2016-2018.
Solvay sees the guidance as a likely, plausible outcome, rather than a formal target, because it is still to appoint a replacement for Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, who has become chairman of French utility Engie.
Solvay said it expected to announce a successor in the next few weeks.
Chief Financial Officer Karim Hajjar said that growth in the current period was set to be 7.5-8.0 percent.
“When you contrast our current indication of 6-9 percent, actually it’s in line with it, certainly not lower,” he told a conference call ahead of investor day presentations.
Solvay shares were up 0.9 percent at 117.50 euros at 0820 GMT, making them the strongest performers in the slightly weaker STOXX 600 chemicals index.
KBC Securities said the new mid-term targets were a bit more optimistic that expected. It said it would retains its “Hold” rating and 125 euro price target for now. ING said the target was higher than consensus expectations.
Growth will be led by advanced materials, such as high-performance polymers in cars and planes, and advanced formulations used in mining, oil and gas and farming.
Both businesses are expected to average annual organic underlying EBITDA growth of 6 to 10 percent over the three-year period.
Performance Chemicals, which makes soda ash used in production of glass, is expected to post growth of 2 to 6 percent.
Free cash flow should grow by 10-15 percent on average per year.
The company also said it would raise production capacity of its Solef PVDF (polyvinylidene fluoride) polymers in France by more than 35 percent to try to benefit from increasing demand for electric vehicle batteries.
Solef PVDF is used to improve energy storage and reduce weight in batteries. ($1 = 0.8527 euros) (Additional reporting by Alan Charlish in Gdynia, Editing by Louise Heavens and Keith Weir)