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UPDATE 1-Autogrill upbeat on long-term outlook after posting 2020 loss

(Adds 2021 guidance)

MILAN, March 11 (Reuters) - Autogrill’s chief executive said on Thursday he was upbeat about its long-term prospects although the Italian caterer booked a 480 million euro loss last year when the pandemic emptied bars and restaurants it runs in airports and motorways.

The group controlled by the Benetton family said adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fell 82% year-on-year to 155 million euros ($185.75 million).

Sales came in at 2 billion euros, more than halved from 2019.

The Milan-based group said revenue fell about 65% year-on-year at constant exchange rates in January and February this year.

Despite a weak start to the year, it expects revenue to come in at between 2.4 billion and 2.8 billion euros this year and reach 4.7 billion in 2024.

Underlying operating margin, a measure of profitability, is seen touching 6.0% in 2024.

“In the long term, we will unleash Autogrill’s full potential and achieve again significant profitable growth, with even higher margins compared to pre-COVID-19,” Chief Executive Gianmario Tondato Da Ruos said in a statement.

Autogrill, which plans to launch a rights issue of up to 600 million euros later this year, said it extended the covenant waiver period on some of its credit facilities through Dec. 31 2022, assuming the positive outcome of a covenant test in September 2022. ($1 = 0.8344 euros) (Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Giulia Segreti and Peter Cooney)

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