* Q4 underlying core earnings up 15.5 pct
* Proposes raising dividend to 2 Swiss francs/share
* Sees double-digit core earnings growth in 2017
* Shares up 3.5 pct at 60 Swiss francs at 0930 GMT
(Recasts with comments from CEO, share price reaction)
By John Revill
ZURICH, March 2 LafargeHolcim will gain
from massive infrastructure spending in the United States,
including the planned border wall with Mexico, the world's
largest cement maker said on Thursday as it posted
Chief Executive Eric Olsen said the United States was on
track to become the Swiss company's most important market, with
improving construction boosted by the $1 trillion infrastructure
programme announced by President Donald Trump.
"We are very well positioned to serve the infrastructure
needs of the U.S.," Olsen told Reuters following the results.
"It is a market where we see some of the highest growth
potential in the next couple of years."
He said the United States was well below peak demand for
cement, which he expected to recover, "and that is before taking
into account a commitment to a trillion-dollar investment in
The company had 6 million tonnes of spare capacity to take
advantage of the upturn, Olsen said, including a new plant in
upstate New York which is due to open in the next few weeks.
As well as working on bridges and airports, the company
would also be interested in working on Trump's plans to build a
border wall with Mexico, Olsen said.
"We will participate in all critical infrastructure projects
in the U.S.," Olsen said. "The wall project ... is an
infrastructure project where we would participate."
LafargeHolcim's bullish outlook came as it posted
better-than-expected core earnings during its fourth quarter,
helping it hit one of its main targets.
Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and
amortisation (EBITDA) of 1.61 billion Swiss francs ($1.59
billion) beat the average analyst estimate of 1.52 billion
francs in a Reuters poll.
The performance meant it met its target of increasing
full-year operating EBITDA by at least a high single-digit rate.
In new targets for 2017, the company said it was targeting
double-digit growth in the measure, supported by recoveries in
key markets like the United States, Nigeria and India.
The higher targets sent the company's stock higher, with the
shares gaining 4.7 percent in early trading.
Separately LafargeHolcim said an internal investigation had
revealed a plant in Syria provided funding to armed groups in
the war-torn country.
The former Lafarge cement plant had engaged in dealings with
certain armed groups and with sanctioned parties during 2013
until it was ultimately evacuated in September 2014.
"It appears from the investigation that the local company
provided funds to third parties to work out arrangements with a
number of these armed groups, including sanctioned parties, in
order to maintain operations and ensure safe passage of
employees and supplies to and from the plant," it said.
The investigation could not establish with certainty who the
ultimate recipients of the funds were, it said, adding: "In
hindsight, the measures required to continue operations at the
plant were unacceptable."
($1 = 1.0104 Swiss francs)
(Editing by Michael Shields and Alexander Smith)