(Corrects name a brokerage in paragraph 4)
* New CEO could accelerate emphasis on new product development
* Operating profit beats forecasts
* Proposes raising dividend
* Expects faster sales growth in 2021 than 2020
Feb 19 (Reuters) - Sika named company veteran Thomas Hasler as its next chief executive on Friday, as the Swiss construction chemicals maker beat estimates for annual operating profit and forecast stronger sales growth in 2021, sending its shares up 2.7% premarket.
The 55-year-old Hasler, now head of Sika’s global business and industry division, will replace Paul Schuler who will retire at the end of April and join Sika’s board. Hasler’s appointment, effective May 1, could accelerate Sika’s innovation drive as he was chief technology officer in a previous role overseeing 20 R&D centres.
“The announcement ... came as a small surprise but should not change anything on Sika’s strategy and success,” said Baader Hevlea analyst Markus Mayer.
Schuler leaves Sika in good shape, after the company overcame coronavirus restrictions hindering building projects to report a 7.1% increase in annual operating profit (EBIT) in 2020.
Stay-at-home customers renovating their houses powered Sika’s refurbishment business, helping its operating profit of 1.13 billion Swiss francs ($1.26 billion) beat analyst forecasts of 1.10 billion francs.
Sika’s ongoing savings campaign and the launch of more than 700 new products that typically carry higher margins also helped it improve its operating profit margin to 14.4%. The company aims to reach 15% in 2021.
Net profit increased 8.8% to 825.1 million francs.
The company, whose products strengthen and waterproof building materials, previously reported a 3.4% increase in sales.
Sika’s results give insight into trends within the construction industry and the automotive sector, which uses its adhesive products to reduce the weight of cars.
It proposed a dividend of 2.50 francs, up from 2.30 francs.
The company confirmed previous guidance, saying it expects sales growth in local currencies to accelerate between 6% and 8% in 2021 as markets rebound from the coronavirus crisis. ($1 = 0.8963 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Revill in Zurich and Ann Maria Shibu and Vishal Vivek in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)