February 8, 2018 / 6:21 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-Umicore to sell shares to fund battery driven capacity growth

(Adds information on capital increase)

Feb 8 (Reuters) - Umicore will invest an extra 660 million euros ($808 million) to expand production capacity for materials used in rechargeable batteries, the Belgian firm said on Thursday after reporting better-than-expected full year results.

The company said it was launching an equity placement of up to 10 percent of its existing shares, through an accelerated bookbuild, to fund the investments in growth.

With a leading position in producing nickel manganese cobalt (NMC), materials used in rechargeable electric car batteries, Umicore said the investment programme would run through 2020 and involve the construction of a greenfield site in Jiangmen, China and a first cathode material production site in Europe.

"With the ongoing expansion project of 460 million, these investments will bring Umicore’s total production capacity in 2021 to at least 175,000 metric tons of cathode materials," it said in a statement.

Demand for cathode materials is expected to rise sharply as governments move to ban petrol and diesel cars and auto-makers ramp up their production of electric vehicles.

Britain, France and the Netherlands all plan to ban petrol and diesel cars in 2030 or 2040, and other countries including China are considering similar moves.

Automakers have been expanding spending on electric vehicles in a wave of investment that now totals $90 billion and is still growing, according to a Reuters analysis.

Liberum estimates that by 2025, electric vehicles will account for 11 percent of global new car sales.

Umicore said on Thursday it now sees upside potential of 35 to 45 percent compared to its original 2020 target for recurring earnings before interest and tax (EBIT).

It expects to approach the target it set for 2020 of doubling recurring EBIT from the 2014 base, excluding discontinued operations, to 500 million euros in 2018.

The company reported full year recurring EBIT of 410 million euros for 2017. Analysts polled for Reuters had expected the company to report recurring EBIT of 394 million euros. ($1 = 0.8166 euros) (Reporting by Alan Charlish; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Alexander Smith)

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