* Sees 2019 EBIT between 1.78-1.80 bln euros
* Hopes to finalise Gemalto deal in March
* Dividend up 19 pct to 2.08 euros (Adds details)
PARIS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - French defence electronics group Thales forecast higher sales and profits for 2019 as it posted a rise in its full-year earnings.
Thales’ 2018 earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) climbed 23 percent from a year ago to 1.685 billion euros ($1.9 billion), while sales rose 4.1 percent to 15.86 billion euros.
For 2019, Thales forecast EBIT between 1.78-1.8 billion euros.
The group - which provides military radar, civil air traffic control systems and rail infrastructure - is in the process of buying chipmaker Gemalto for 4.8 billion euros to become a leading player in digital security.
Thales expected to finalise the Gemalto deal in March.
“The integration of Gemalto, which we have been actively preparing for over a year, will in the coming weeks consolidate our position as a global leader in digital security,” said Thales chairman and chief executive Patrice Caine.
Analysts had on average been expecting 1.635 billion euros of EBIT on revenues of 16.072 billion euros, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.
Thales’ intake of fresh orders rose 9 percent to 16.034 billion euros, after accelerating in the fourth quarter due to higher defence and security spending by clients.
$1 = 0.8806 euros Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta