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UPDATE 3-Portugal's Jeronimo Martins grew Q3 profit, sales as lockdowns lifted

(Adds nine-month investment figure, 2020 forecast)

LISBON, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Portuguese retailer Jeronimo Martins said on Wednesday its net profit grew 11% to 115 million euros ($135.9 million) in the third quarter, supported by a slight rise in sales as demand slowly returned with the lifting of lockdowns. Sales from July to September rose 2.7% to 4.9 billion euros, with a 6.4% rise in revenues in Poland - where the company’s Biedronka unit is the largest food retailer - offsetting a 1.2% drop at its domestic Pingo Doce supermarket chain.

Portugal and Poland both imposed more than a month of lockdowns earlier this year to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those were lifted at the end of April in Poland and the beginning of May in Portugal, though some regional restrictions are back in place in both countries.

The company’s board will make a proposal at its extraordinary general meeting on Nov. 26 to pay its shareholders 86.7 million euros in extra dividends, equivalent to a gross amount of 0.138 euros per share.

Market conditions for the coming months are “hard to predict” due to current uncertainty but the company said it was in a stable position to face the future.

“The lessons learned so far leave the Group better prepared to face the challenges ahead. We have a solid financial position, ending September with a strong net cash position,” a statement read.

Portugal’s second-largest retailer after Sonae’s chain Continente, the company said its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) grew 3.3% to 395 million euros in the period.

Its EBITDA margin - a key measure of profitability - dropped to 7.3% versus 7.7% a year ago, with Biedronka’s margin stable at 9.6%.

The firm made investments worth 258 million euros, 55% in Poland, in the first nine months of the year, down from the 405 million euros invested in the same period last year.

“We currently expect the 2020 group capex programme to reach 450 million euros,” Jeronimo Martins said. ($1 = 0.8461 euros) (Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Victoria Waldersee, Jan Harvey and Bernadette Baum and Kirsten Donovan)

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