July 20, 2020 / 4:13 PM / 18 days ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-Spain's Cellnex hikes 2020 guidance but expects losses

(Corrects paragraph two to read Europe's largest mobile phone towers operator, not largest mobile phone operator.)

By Joan Faus

BARCELONA, July 20 (Reuters) - Spain's Cellnex on Monday raised its 2020 guidance after completing several investments and reported an increase in first-half core earnings, but said it expected net losses in the coming quarters.

Europe's largest mobile phone towers operator, Cellnex has bought tens of thousands of phone towers across Europe, controls more than 40,000 sites and is present in eight countries. It is seen as a central player in any consolidation of the European telecoms infrastructure market.

On Monday, it increased its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) 2020 outlook to 1.16 billion-1.18 billion euros ($1.33 billion-$1.35 billion) versus a previous estimate of 1.065 billion-1.085 billion euros.

First-half core earnings jumped 64% to 527 million euros, while operating income climbed 48% to 723 million euros, although Cellnex slipped to a 43 million euro net loss in the same period, mainly because of higher amortisations and financial costs related to its investments.

"This is in line with the current strong growth that the company continues to experience and for this reason the group expects to continue to show a negative accounting result in the coming quarters," the Barcelona-based company said in a statement.

Cellnex had already swung to a net loss of 30 million euros following acquisitions in the first quarter.

Spun off from Spanish infrastructure operator Abertis in 2015, Cellnex has expanded to reach a market capitalisation of nearly 22 billion euros and become the sixth largest company on the IBEX 35 blue-chip index.

In 2019, it invested almost 4 billion euros of the 7.7 billion euros it had said it planned to spend over an unspecified period, while in the first half of 2020 it committed to investments of around 2.5 billion euros.

The company finalised earlier this year its first two acquisitions in Portugal and in July it closed its purchase of the telecoms division of Britain's Arqiva.

Cellnex's net debt in the first half of the year was 4.67 billion euros compared to 3.94 billion euros at the end of last year. It said it has available funds of approximately 4 billion euros.

$1 = 0.8739 euros Reporting by Joan Faus; Editing by Nathan Allen, Edmund Blair and Barbara Lewis

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