FRANKFURT, Feb 28 (Reuters) – German steel distributor Kloeckner & Co on Wednesday forecast operating profit to remain at least flat this year, adding there was upside to its outlook if steel prices improved further. Sales are expected to rise slightly in 2018, the company, which competes with Thyssenkrupp, Salzgitter and U.S.-listed Reliance Steel & Aluminum, said, helped by higher steel demand in Europe and the United States. Analysts polled by Reuters, on average, expect Kloeckner & Co’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to come to 220 million euros ($269.26 million) this year, unchanged from 2017. Sales are expected to reach 6.19 billion euros in 2018, according to analyst estimates, up from 6.14 billion in 2017.

The group said it would propose a dividend of 0.30 euros per share for 2017, up 50 percent from the 0.20 euros per share it paid for the previous year.

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