February 10, 2017 / 7:09 AM / a year ago

Umicore sees solid growth in 2017 from auto catalysts, batteries

BRUSSELS, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Belgian speciality materials group Umicore forecast “solid growth” of its businesses serving cars and trucks this year and higher recycling volumes after 2016 profits at the lower end of estimates.

The diverse group said on Friday it saw strong demand for its cathode materials used in automotive batteries, with volume growth more pronounced in the second half of the year when new capacity came on stream in China and Korea.

Demand for automotive catalysts was also set to grow even though there were no major new emission norms to be introduced in 2017.

The ramp-up of capacity at is facility in Hoboken, Belgium, would also lead to higher volumes in recycling of precious metals, albeit with lower margins likely.

Umicore, formerly a mining group, said 2016 recurring earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) rose 6 percent to 351 million euros.

That was within its own guidance of 345-365 million euros, although below the average 357 million forecast in a Reuters poll, with estimates ranging from 353 to 362 million euros.

Growth of automotive catalysts and rechargeable battery materials offset the impact of lower metal prices on various recycling activities.

The company increased its dividend to 1.30 euros per share from 1.20 euros for 2015. Markets expectations were for a dividend of 1.25, according to a Reuters survey. (Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek)

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