January 31, 2019 / 6:28 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Ferrari's CEO "bullish" about earnings, shares jump

* 2019 adj. EBITDA seen rising around 10 pct

* 2018 adj. EBITDA up 8 pct y/y

* CEO says 2020 targets "on the low side", growth could accelerate

* CEO says Ferrari resilient despite market headwinds (Recasts after conference call, adds details, comments, shares)

By Agnieszka Flak

MILAN, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Ferrari expects growth in core earnings to accelerate to 10 percent this year and Chief Executive Louis Camilleri said he might raise targets for 2020, betting on new models and special editions at premium prices to lure customers.

Shares in the Italian luxury carmaker rose 12 percent on Thursday after Camilleri said he was "very bullish", adding that a forecast previously given for 2020 might be "on the low side" after he set some targets for this year even higher.

The jump in the share price reversed a slide since Camilleri took over from late boss Sergio Marchionne, whose sudden death in July unnerved shareholders who had expected him to remain until 2021.

The shares closed up 11 percent at 108.6 euros.

Earlier this month Chairman John Elkann reiterated his support for Camilleri, denying speculation a top management purge could be on the cards after the replacement of Ferrari's Formula One principal.

Camillieri said on Thursday he was confident he could deliver the mid-term targets unveiled in September, despite trade tensions, a China slowdown, Brexit and currency volatility.

"While we would never claim to be totally immune to what is going on in the world, we are remarkably resilient," he told analysts on a post-results conference call.

"We continue to hold a strong order book and our order intake is firmly in line with our expectations."

For 2019, Ferrari forecast adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rising around 10 percent to between 1.2-1.25 billion euros. Sales are seen growing more than 3 percent to more than 3.5 billion euros.

The supercar maker known for its racing pedigree and roaring combustion engines will launch five new models this year in a bid to boost profitability, especially after shipments grew 10 percent last year but revenues remained flat.

"These models don't only allow us to penetrate exciting new segments but also provide opportunity to leverage our pricing power," he said, adding that the focus would be on boosting profitability rather than volumes.

In a strategy plan to 2022 unveiled in September, Camilleri promised several special editions, a utility vehicle and hybrid cars to almost double core earnings and boost margins to above 38 percent without sacrificing exclusivity.

Ferrari also plans a fully-electric model, but only after 2022, Camilleri said on Thursday, without being more specific.

He excluded any potential plans to combine with luxury brand Maserati, saying it would be a "distraction" and Ferrari already had its plate full with the plans unveiled in September.

With margins at nearly 33 percent, strong pricing power and an enviable customer waiting list, Camilleri had inherited a business firing on all cylinders.

Ferrari has clocked up years of record earnings, helped by special editions and a customisation programme. In 2018 adjusted EBITDA rose 8 percent, in line with expectations.

But it could prove tough to maintain the company's high valuation as emissions rules tighten, capital spending increases and the diverging interests of investors, racing fans, owners and collectors become harder to balance.

Asked about plans for its much-debated utility vehicle called "Purosangue" (Thoroughbred) due in 2022, Camilleri said "nobody seems to be concerned that it would dilute the Ferrari image". ($1 = 0.8714 euros) (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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