Sweden's Securitas reinstates dividend as third quarter profit in line

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Securitas SECUb.ST, the world's biggest security services group, reported a third-quarter operating profit that roughly matched expectations and said it was reinstating its dividend as the business impact from the pandemic grew less severe.

The provider of guard services, alarm surveillance and airport security has been hit hard by the pandemic as demand for luggage screening at airports and other services has evaporated in many parts of the world.

Operating profit was 1.14 billion Swedish crowns (98.92 million pounds), down from a year-ago 1.44 billion but up from 882 million in the previous quarter. Four analysts had on average forecast a 1.12 billion crown profit, according to data from Refinitiv.

The rival to Britain's G4S GFS.L said in a statement it was reinstating its annual dividend proposal of 4.80 crowns per share, to be approved by shareholders in a vote next month.

Securitas, for which wages account for the bulk of its costs, withdrew its dividend proposal in April due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, adding it might consider a new proposal later.

The company said in September it had seen some “encouraging signs” as restrictions eased and economies opened up, but that great uncertainty remained around the duration and implications of the pandemic, a line repeated on Tuesday.

In recent weeks a renewed wave of the virus sweeping through Europe has seen countries such as France and Germany return to varying degrees of lockdown though these moves have largely come after the close of the third quarter.

Like-for-like, sales were unchanged Securitas said, against 4% growth a year earlier and a 4% drop in the second quarter. Securitas shares, which were up around 3.5% ahead of the report, pared gains to stand 0.9% higher at 1205 GMT.

Reporting by Anna Ringstrom and Johannes Hellstrom; editing by Niklas Pollard