UPDATE 1-Martin Bouygues steps down as group CEO, remains chairman

(Adds details, CEO change)

Feb 18 (Reuters) - Martin Bouygues has handed over the position of Bouygues SA chief executive to his deputy but will stay on as chairman, the French conglomerate said on Thursday while predicting a gradual recovery from a 2020 drop in profits.

Martin Bouygues, 68, who took over from his father and founder of the group Francis Bouygues as Chairman and CEO in 1989, was replaced by deputy CEO Olivier Roussat as of Feb. 17, the company said in its 2020 results report.

“To meet the challenges we face, whether economic, climate-related, social or digital, we wanted to ensure that Bouygues has the most effective governance,” Bouygues said in a statement.

Bouygues’s activities, which range from construction to media and telecoms, sharply rebounded in the second-half of 2020, after a first-half substantially impacted by the pandemic.

The family-run group said it expected its 2022 current operating profit to return to the same level of 2019 or be slightly higher, citing a particularly strong financial position.

In 2021, the group’s sales and earnings should already be well above those of 2020, although without reaching those of 2019, Bouygues added.

The French conglomerate reported current operating profit at 1.22 billion euros ($1.47 billion) in 2020, down from 1.68 billion euros a year earlier, but above 1.14 billion euros forecast by analysts. (Reporting by Charles Regnier Editing by Tomasz Janowski)