(Adds detail and background)
PARIS, Feb 27 (Reuters) - French waste and water group Suez booked double-digit 2018 earnings growth and gave confident guidance for 2019, but unlike rival Veolia it again left its dividend unchanged.
Suez has kept its dividend at 65 cents per share since 2010, and said it would propose to pay the same on 2019 earnings. Veolioa has increased dividends the past four years and increased dividend on 2018 earnings by 10 percent to 92 cents.
“Proposing to maintain the dividend this year is already an indication that we will maintain it next year ... it is a formidable sign of confidence in Suez’ capacity to grow and deliver. Our policy is very clear and will please the markets,” outgoing chief executive Jean-Louis Chaussade said on a call.
Shares in Suez gained 2.2 percent in early trading.
Analysts polled by Refinitiv Eikon expect the dividend to remain at 65 cents on 2020 earnings.
New Suez CEO Bertrand Camus, who will take over from Chaussade after the May 14 shareholders meeting, said he would focus on the acceleration of profitable growth while maintaining financial discipline.
Camus, who has been with the company for 25 years, declined to comment on strategy changes and said he would present details of his plans later this year.
Suez’ 2018 revenues rose 9.8 percent to 17.33 billion euros ($19.7 billion), boosted by European recycling and its industrial water unit WTS. Revenues also factored in the integration of Suez’s earlier GE Water acquisition.
Core earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 7.4 percent to 2.77 billion euros, while EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) rose 10.2 percent to 1.34 billion.
Net profit jumped 13.4 percent to 335 million euros.
Suez said it expected to deliver a significant improvement in its results with 2019 organic revenue growth of 2-3 percent and organic EBIT growth of 4-5 percent.
Chaussade said there was no progress in Suez’ attemps to recover about $625 million owed by Argentina following an order by international arbitrators in 2015.
Suez unit Aguas Argentinas was awarded a contract to manage water and waste water services in the capital Buenos Aires in 1993, but the government ended the contract in 2006.
Chaussade said Suez had registered is claims with the federal court of the United States in a first step towards possibly seizing Argentina assets.
He also said the firm has been in contact with specialised funds about possibly selling its claims to Argentina. ($1 = 0.8793 euros) (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta/Keith Weir)