October 24, 2018 / 5:16 AM / a month ago

France's Edenred strikes confident tone after strong third quarter , eyes sector movements

PARIS (Reuters) - Edenred (EDEN.PA) predicted further strong growth in the fourth quarter after it reported a sharp rise in third quarter sales, and said it was monitoring movements within its sector as speculation mounts over bid target Ingenico (INGC.PA).

Edenred, which sources have said has expressed interest for French payment service company Ingenico (INGC.PA), said it was closely monitoring developments in the corporate payment sector.

Edenred, which competes with caterers Sodexo (EXHO.PA) and Compass (CPG.L), kept its goal for a higher operating profit this year and reiterated it expected ito substantially beat all its key financial metrics this year.

“Growth accelerated in all our business lines, paving the way for a new record year,” said Finance Chief Patrick Bataillard.

Third quarter revenues reached 325 million euros (287.10 million pounds), marking a like-for-like rise of 13 percent.

Edenred kept its 2018 financial goal of earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) between 440 million euros and 470 million euros, against 429 million euros in 2017.

INGENICO SPECULATION

A source told Reuters earlier this month that both Natixis (CNAT.PA) and Edenred (EDEN.PA) had sent letters expressing interest in French payments company Ingenico (INGC.PA) at the beginning of the summer, adding that Ingenico was talking with Natixis, although not yet with Edenred.

“I cannot confirm that rumour,” said Bataillard, when asked about the Reuters report.

“Edenred is positioning itself as a corporate payment company. We are constantly outwatching all the players in this eco-system. Clearly Ingenico is part of that eco-system. So it is normal for us to be interested in movements around us,” he added.

Ingenico has appointed a committee of independent directors to review strategic options for the company after lowering its earnings outlook for a second time.

Takeover activity within the payments field has been intensifying as the increasing use of smartphones to make online payments triggered consolidation, with mergers and acquisitions allowing companies to cut costs.

Edenred, which has a market value of 7.6 billion euros, has said it was on the prowl for acquisitions and had the capacity to mobilise 1.5-2.0 billion euros to fund deals.

Edenred’s profile has evolved in recent years from that of a meal and food solutions company to that of a FinTech building business to business payment systems.

Its development of products such as fuel cards also aims to tap into a sector that is growing faster than other parts of the employee benefits sector, as companies seek to control business expenses more effectively.

The group has annual medium-term objectives of like for like growth in operating revenue of more than 7 percent, operating EBIT growth of more than 9 percent, and growth in funds from operations of more than 10 percent. It expects to substantially outperform these targets this year.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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