France's Thales sees rebound in 2021 after hitting cautious 2019 target

PARIS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - France’s Thales on Wednesday predicted a return to tangible top-line growth from next year as 2019 revenues and profits crept up in line with expectations, propped up by rising defence and security demand.

Europe’s largest defence electronics manufacturer said demand for fighter and warship systems and cybersecurity compensated for weakness in its space activities, lifting revenues 0.8% on a like-for-like basis to 18.401 billion euros ($20 billion).

Operating profit rose 4% on a like-for-like basis to 2.008 billion euros, for a margin of 10.9%. Analysts were on average expecting operating income of 1.954 billion euros on revenues of 18.394 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

After an October sales warning, Thales had predicted underlying revenues up around 1% in 2019 due partly to the slow sales of commercial satellites.

It said on Wednesday that it saw another year of relatively muted progress in 2020, with projected sales of 19-19.5 billion euros, followed by a sharper pickup in 2021.

“2021 will be a year of measurable, tangible growth,” Chief Executive Patrice Caine told reporters.

$1 = 0.9201 euros Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta