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UPDATE 1-Utility Veolia eyes bigger acquisitions as recycling activities boom

Geert De Clercq

* Toxic waste treatment and plastics recycling grow fast in H1

* Company to look at medium-sized acquisitions from 2020 (Adds CEO comments)

PARIS, Aug 1 (Reuters) - French water and waste group Veolia said it will start targeting bigger acquisitions from 2020 as it focuses more on high-growth new business lines such as toxic waste treatment and plastics recycling, which both boomed in the first half of 2019.

Veolia chief executive Antoine Frerot said hazardous waste treatment revenue was up 13% in the first half while plastic recycling revenues also rose 30%.

Frerot added that the sale of Veolia's district heating activity in the U.S. to an infrastructure fund for $1.25 billion, announced late on Wednesday, was aimed at freeing up cash to reinvest in areas where Veolia has strong growth.

He added that he will present a new 2020-2023 strategy in February, when the company releases its 2019 full year earnings.

"The acquisitions under the current plan were typically a few tens of millions or euros, less than 100 million. Under the new plan they will be bigger," said Frerot.

"In our industry there are no very big companies to buy, but if (our acquisitions) were small today, they will be of a good, medium size tomorrow," he added.

Veolia's core earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 5.4% to 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) as revenue rose 5.8% to 13.32 billion euros.

Net profits also increased and Veolia confirmed its guidance for 2019 core earnings between 3.9 and 4.0 billion euros.

($1 = 0.9050 euros) (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)