UPDATE 3-Chemicals firm Lanxess targets more deals as markets recover

* 2020 adjusted EBITDA in line with preliminary announcement

* 2021 core profit seen at 900 million to 1 billion euros

* Company plans further M&A with focus in consumer protection (Adds M&A comments from press conference)

March 11 (Reuters) - Lanxess is looking for more acquisitions in high-margin consumer markets such as food ingredients and animal hygiene, the German speciality chemicals maker said on Thursday, as it forecast a pick up in earnings from a pandemic-hit 2020.

The group, which began the year with three acquisitions including a $1.1 billion deal to buy U.S.-based rival Emerald Kalama Chemical, said its so-called “consumer protection” business was a particular focus for deals.

The business, which also produces ingredients used in surface disinfectants, hand sanitisers and soaps, generated about a fifth of the group’s revenues in 2020.

Chief Executive Matthias Zachert told reporters the company was looking at small to mid-size acquisitions, but would not shy away from bigger deals if the right opportunity emerged, or acquisitions for other parts of its business.

Lanxess, which competes with Germany’s BASF and Dutch-based Akzo Nobel, has seen strong demand for disinfectant ingredients in the pandemic, helping offset a slump in the auto industry, which makes up about 20% of its sales.

Adjusted core earnings (EBITDA) fell 15% to 862 million euros last year, in line with expectations.

The group sees 2021 core earnings of 900 million to 1 billion euros, helped by a recovery in most end markets.

Its shares were down 3.5% at 1055 GMT, at the bottom of the German mid-cap index, with some analysts describing the guidance as conservative.

Lanxess said in January a rebound in demand for engineering plastics and resins from carmakers had boosted its fourth-quarter adjusted earnings.

Last week, German rival Evonik said it also remained on the hunt for acquisitions.

$1 = 0.8390 euros Reporting by Milla Nissi in Gdansk; Additional reporting by Linda Pasquini; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter