February 8, 2019 / 7:26 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Belgium's Umicore says 2019 earnings to be hit by car industry slowdown

(Adds details from statement)

Feb 8 (Reuters) - Belgium’s Umicore said on Friday its 2019 earnings growth would to be hit by subdued demand in the automotive and consumer electronics sectors, higher depreciation charges and startup costs.

The firm, one of the world’s largest cobalt refiners, has invested heavily in battery material production to cash in on growing demand for electric vehicles (EVs), but its shares have been hit by a slowdown in car output and falling cobalt prices.

“The long-term fundamentals of our business are strong and we are excited about our prospects, notwithstanding current challenges in the macro economic environment impacting in particular the automotive sector,” the company said.

The materials technology and recycling group reported 2019 recurring earnings before interest and tax (REBIT) of 514 million euros ($583 million) for 2018, broadly in line with the 512.5 million euros forecast in a poll conducted for the firm.

This meant it reached its target for 2020 of doubling REBIT from the 2014 base to 500 million euros two years early.

The company said it continued to see upside potential of 35 to 45 percent compared with its original 2020 target.

Umicore proposed a 2018 dividend of 0.75 euro per share up from 0.70 euro in 2017.

$1 = 0.8820 euros Reporting by Alan Charlish in Gdynia Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Edmund Blair

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