April 2, 2020 / 11:32 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Iberdrola to hire more staff, still expects profit growth despite coronavirus

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MADRID, April 2 (Reuters) - Wind power producer Iberdrola said on Thursday it still expected net profit to rise this year and plans to hire 5,000 staff globally, despite the coronavirus crisis gripping the world and its home country Spain in particular.

The supplier of energy to more than 30 million people worldwide also said it was maintaining its plan to invest 10 billion euros ($10.9 billion) in 2020 and said it would ratchet up its dividend in line with profit growth.

Iberdrola is the second-largest company by market value in Spain, which has restricted economic activity to a bare minimum to contain the spread of the virus, the world’s second-most deadly outbreak of the disease.

Chief Executive Ignacio Galan told a shareholder meeting conducted by telephone that “accelerating investments once this exceptional situation has ended is the best, I venture to say the only way to get out of this situation of crisis and uncertainty.”

Moving in the opposite direction from hoardes of companies around the world setting up furlough schemes, Galan said Iberdrola would hire 5,000 new staff.

About 50% of the new full-time positions will be created in Brazil, a company spokesman said, but there will be increases in all its main markets, which also include the United States, Britain, Mexico and Spain.

To help generate demand, Iberdrola has brought forward orders worth about 3.8 billion euros to its suppliers in recent days, Galan said.

“Unlike in previous crisis, the authorities are reacting fast to put liquidity into the system, but liquidity is not enough without activity.”

At home in Spain, nearly 900,000 jobs have been lost since Madrid told most people to stay at home in mid-March - an even faster rate of destruction than that recorded during a long slump in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Iberdrola made a net profit of 3.4 billion euros in 2019. It did not say how much it now expected net profit to rise this year. Previously it estimated a high single-digit percentage increase. ($1 = 0.9145 euros) (Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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