Nexans, the world's biggest cable maker, on Monday said it expects to see growth in sales and operating margin this year following an upturn in the second half of 2010 and despite rising commodity costs.

The French group said 2010 sales reached 6.18 billion euros ($8.37 billion), or 4.3 billion at constant nonferrous metal prices, with organic growth of 0.4 percent.

Operating margin reached 4.8 percent, compared with the Nexans' target of around 4.5 percent but down from 6.0 percent in 2009. Net income came to 82 million euros.

The overall improvement in the market environment in the second half has enabled Nexans to announce results slightly above expectations for sales and operating margin, and far better than anticipated for net debt, Chairman Frederic Vincent said in a statement.

Nexans said it expected operating margin to reach 5.5 percent this year, in a context characterized by a marked upturn in activity in the fourth quarter and a strong increase in raw material prices.

It expects 2011 sales to rise more than 5 percent.

The company is set to be overtaken as the world's biggest cable manufacturer after it lost out to Italian rival Prysmian
in an attempt to acquire Draka .

Nexans was continuing to look at acquisitions, notably overseas, Chief Financial Officer Frederic Michelland told a call on the results.

The group expected raw material prices to remain firm in the first half of 2011, he said, adding the group was able to pass on copper and aluminum costs in contracts but that it was more difficult to pass on costs in oil-based materials.

Nexans proposed a full-year dividend of 1.10 euros a share.

($1=.7381 Euro)

(Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt and Gus Trompiz; Editing by Lionel Laurent and Hans Peters)