* Proposes div of 2.10 eur/shr for 2018 vs f’cast 2.30
* Expects sales and profits to grow moderately in 2019
* FY result from current operations down 9pct at 1.98 bln euros
* Shares down 2.6 pct (Recasts, adds CEO comments, analyst, context)
By Christoph Steitz and Ilona Wissenbach
FRANKFURT/HEIDELBERG, Germany, March 21 (Reuters) - H eidelbergCement said it would pay a lower-than-expected dividend as it delivered a muted outlook on Thursday, pulling shares in the world’s second-largest cement maker back from a five-month high.
The group expects sales and profits to grow moderately in 2019, it said, reflecting energy cost inflation and higher demand for construction materials in key markets Indonesia, Europe and North America.
HeidelbergCement, which had in November announced plans to cut costs and investments to protect profit margins, said it would pay a dividend of 2.10 euros per share for 2018, the ninth consecutive increase but less than expected.
“Both the market and we had hoped for 2.30 euros per share,” Bankhaus Lampe analyst Marc Gabriel said in a note.
Moderate profit growth means an increase of between 3 and 9 percent, Chief Executive Bernd Scheifele, who will step down in a year’s time, told journalists after posting a 9 percent drop in the group’s result from current operations to 1.98 billion euros ($2.3 billion).
Scheifele, CEO since 2005, said he expected a solid first quarter, but cautioned the group would be strict about costs. “We want to take a disciplined approach to growth, we want to improve the structure of our balance sheet,” he said.
Shares in the company, which on Wednesday had hit their highest since early October, were 2.6 percent lower by 1234 GMT.
Bigger rival LafargeHolcim earlier this month forecast sales growing by between 3 and 5 percent in 2019, hoping demand for new housing fuelled by low interest rates will shield the construction industry from an economic downturn.
HeidelbergCement had cut its full-year profit outlook in October, blaming higher-than expected energy costs and bad weather in the United States. North America accounts for more than a third of the group’s core earnings.
Rain, floods and hurricanes had caused the weakest September in the United States in terms of cement demand since the financial crisis.
$1 = 0.8784 euros Editing by Riham Alkousaa and David Holmes