(Adds details, quotes from call)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, Oct 13 (Reuters) - French voucher and prepaid card provider Edenred cut its full-year operating profit goal on Tuesday, citing a slide of the real currency in its key Brazilian market in the third quarter.
The owner of the Ticket Restaurant brand however kept its target for an annual rise of between 8 percent and 14 percent in vouchers issue volume, having achieved an 8.7 percent rise in the first nine months of the year.
Latin America recorded like-for-like issue volume growth of 13 percent for the period, with Europe growing 3.7 percent.
In Brazil alone, issue volume rose 9.7 percent in the first nine months despite a tough economic climate and rising unemployment, the company said.
Edenred’s exposure to Brazil, where political and economic turmoil has shaken investor confidence, and the surprise announcement of the departure of former chairman and CEO Jacques Stern on May 18, have pushed its shares down nearly 30 percent.
Edenred, which competes with caterers Sodexo and Compass, as well as credit card networks MasterCard and Visa, earns about 50 percent of its operating profit in Brazil.
“We expect the situation to stabilize in Brazil in the fourth quarter,” Edenred acting Chairman and CEO Nadra Moussalem told a conference call.
Edenred predicted 2015 earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) would be between 340 million and 355 million euros against 343 million euros in 2014.
Edenred had previously forecast EBIT of between 365 million and 380 million euros but average analysts’ estimates stood at 359 million euros, an ThomsonReuters I/B/E/S poll showed.
Edenred also confirmed its policy of allocating free cash flow on a balanced basis to the payment of dividends, for around 90 percent of recurring net profit after tax, and to the financing of targeted acquisitions.
This meant that this year’s dividend would be very close to last year’s dividend of 0.84 euros per share, Chief Financial Officer Loic Jenouvrier said.
Last month Edenred said it had picked Bertrand Dumazy, head of decorative paints company Cromology, as its new chairman and chief executive. He will take up his position on October 26. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Geert De Clercq)