LafargeHolcim, the Swiss-French cement giant in the middle of a post-merger restructuring, has lifted its proposed dividend.

The company said it now expects to generate free cashflow of at least 10 billion Swiss francs ($9.9 billion) by the end of 2018. 

The targets eclipsed third-quarter sales and profit figures today that missed analysts' expectations, although some analysts said the company's medium-term goals were too ambitious. 

The tie-up between Switzerland's Holcim and France's Lafarge, announced in 2014, forged the world's biggest cement maker.

It aimed to cut costs and counteract slumping demand for cement after the financial crisis depressed construction. 

Chief executive Eric Olsen said the company was closing Chinese plants and combining management at businesses there to reduce costs and ride out "genuine declines in demand". 

"China is a fantastic example of bringing Lafarge and Holcim assets together where we can do things in reducing costs that we wouldn't have been able to do otherwise," Olsen said. 

"We need to prepare ourselves for demand that's not going to come back. In a situation like that, it's low cost that wins," he added.

Weakness in demand in China and Brazil, is being partially offset by "continuing positive trends" in the US, Mexico, Britain and the Philippines, LafargeHolcim said. 

The cashflow target of 10 billion francs by 2018 would mark a turnaround from 2014, when the companies still reported results separately and Holcim had free cashflow of 1.76 billion francs, while Lafarge's cashflow was €592m. 

The company today proposed a 2015 dividend of 1.50 francs, up from the 1.30 francs it had suggested in July. 

"It's my ambition that by the end of 2018 LafargeHolcim will have changed the game in free cashflow generation in our industry," Olsen said. 

"We'll be looking at returning value to shareholders through dividends and/or share buybacks," the CEO added. 

Its operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) declined 16.1% in the third quarter to 1.64 billion Swiss francs, below the 1.75 billion forecast by analysts. 

Quarterly sales dropped 8.7% to 7.83 billion francs, just missing analysts' forecast for 7.92 billion francs. 

LafargeHolcim said it is targeting operating EBITDA of at least 8 billion francs by 2018 and hopes to boost return on invested capital by at least 300 basis points from 2015.

It said today its third-quarter net profit rose to 812 million francs, from 504 million in the 2014 period, on asset sale gains, including selling its stake in Thailand's Siam City Cement. 

LafargeHolcim said it would continue "dynamic portfolio management", expecting 2016 divestments of 3.5 billion francs.