May 5 (Reuters) - Solvay said on Wednesday it
expects free cash flow to reach the upper end of its 2021
guidance range after the Belgian chemicals group beat
first-quarter earnings expectations, helped by cost cuts and
strong automotive sales.
The company, whose products range from base chemicals such
as soda ash to speciality polymers used in cars and planes, now
expects free cash flow this year of 650 million euros ($781
million), narrowing its previous guidance of 600-650 million.
Solvay raised its cost cuts target last February to 500
million euros by 2024, from 350 million euros, and said it
planned to cut 500 jobs by 2022. That followed a reduction of
570 positions last year in the United States and in Britain as
part of its restructuring.
The company, which makes lithium derivatives for batteries,
said automotive sales were up an underlying 19%, boosted by an
80% jump in hybrid and electric vehicle batteries, and
offsetting continued weakness in civil aerospace due to COVID-19
lockdowns and restrictions.
First-quarter earnings before interest, tax, depreciation
and amortization (EBITDA) rose 10.3% like-for-like from a year
earlier to 583 million euros, above a company-provided consensus
of 535 million euros.
Sales in January-March were up an underlying 1.9% at 2.37
billion euros, above a company-provided consensus of 2.32
($1 = 0.8321 euros)
(Reporting by Kate Entringer in Gdansk. Editing by Mark Potter)