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Shrugging off COVID-19, HeidelbergCement saw good start to 2021

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - HeidelbergCement, the world's second-largest cement maker, on Tuesday said it saw a good start to 2021 after preliminary results showed core profit was up 6% last year.

"There should be a tailwind from infrastructure programmes, for example in the USA, Australia, India and Italy. I am also confident about private residential construction," Chief Executive Dominik von Achten said.

Adjusted for currency and consolidation effects, the result from current operations before depreciation and amortisation was up 6.1% at 3.71 billion euros ($4.51 billion) last year, while sales were down 4.6% at 17.61 billion.

At 1.3 billion euros, cash savings blew past the group's own forecasts of 1 billion euros, helping the group soften the impact of the coronavirus crisis, which had a substantial impact on construction activity last year.

"We managed to more than compensate for the coronavirus-related decline in sales volumes through consistent spending discipline," von Achten said.

The group also said it would tie variable remuneration of managing board members as well as bonus-eligible employees to both CO2 reduction and financial targets. By 2025, specific net CO2 emissions are to be cut by 30% versus 1990 levels.

($1 = 0.8218 euros)

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Maria Sheahan)