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UPDATE 3-Electrolux sees boost from stay-at-home trend through first half of 2021

* Q4 operating profit 2.5 bln SEK vs consensus 2.3 bln

* Sees higher demand yr/yr across markets in H1 2021

* Expects to pass on higher raw material costs to customers

* Sees higher total costs in 2021

* Sees higher sales in 2021 vs 2020 (Adds details, background, CEO comment, shares)

STOCKHOLM, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Europe’s biggest home appliances maker Electrolux expects unusually strong demand to continue in the coming months after the stay-at-home trend during the pandemic boosted sales in the second half of 2020.

The Swedish group reported on Tuesday a bigger than expected rise in fourth-quarter profit and proposed lifting its dividend.

“Sales continued to benefit from consumers allocating more of their household budgets to home improvement and we also executed well on price and mix,” Chief Executive Jonas Samuelson said in a statement.

Operating profit landed at 2.50 billion crowns ($297 million) against a year-earlier 960 million and a forecast 2.34 billion in Refinitiv poll of analysts.

“For the first half of 2021 we anticipate that the strong consumer demand from increased home-improvement spending experienced during the second half of 2020 will remain to some extent,” the company said.

That, combined with low inventories at retailers, meant demand would be higher than in the first half of 2020, Electrolux said, adding however that capacity and component availability would likely remain constraining factors.

Samuelson said that although demand may normalise in the second half of the year, group sales were likely to rise from 2020. “We expect growth in the full year 2021 in terms of volume, price and product mix,” he told Reuters.

U.S. rival Whirlpool last week also forecast higher sales this year.

Electrolux said it expected to pass on rising metal prices to customers in 2021 - but higher costs for logistics, ongoing plant efficiency improvements and marketing would probably mean higher net costs in the year.

The group’s shares, which have risen 10% in the past 12 months, were little changed on the day by 1130 GMT.

The group, which in March spun off its unit Electrolux Professional, proposed a dividend of 8 crowns per share for 2020, up from 7 crowns for 2019 and in line with expectations.

$1 = 8.4174 Swedish crowns Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; editing by Johannes Hellstrom, Simon Johnson and Susan Fenton

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