* H1 recurring op profit 138 mln euros f‘cast 136 mln
* Sees FY core profit in upper half of 250 mln-280 mln range
BRUSSELS, July 31 (Reuters) - Belgian speciality materials group Umicore expects to hit the top half of its core profit target this year despite a 15 percent drop in earnings in the first six months, the company said on Thursday.
Umicore, which also makes automotive catalysts and materials for rechargeable batteries, reported a 15 percent fall in recurring operating profit (REBIT) to 138 million euros ($184.9 million), versus the average 136 million forecast in a Reuters poll of six analysts.
The company blamed the profit drop on lower metal prices, currency fluctuations and higher depreciation charges. Half-year sales dipped 1 percent to 1.2 billion euros.
Umicore forecast full-year core profit would come in at the upper half of a previously stated range of between 250 million euros and 280 million, assuming metal prices and exchange rates remain unchanged for the rest of the year.
That range represented a drop of 8 to 18 percent compared with the 304 million euros reported last year and was below the average analyst forecast of 290 million euros, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Umicore said it would pay an interim dividend of 0.50 euro per share, and would also cancel 8 million shares before resuming its share buyback programme.
$1 = 0.7464 Euros Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Holmes