UPDATE 1-Italy's INWIT ups 2020 guidance as Q3 core profit, revenue rise

(Add detail, CEO quotes from analyst call)

MILAN, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Italy’s top mobile tower operator INWIT on Thursday slightly increased its 2020 financial targets as its business was supported by deals with phone carriers to rollout next-generation 5G networks across the country.

Jointly-controlled by Italy’s largest phone group Telecom Italia (TIM) and Vodafone, INWIT said it expected 8% average annual growth both of revenue and core profit in its updated business plan to 2023.

INWIT said it expected 2020 revenue at the upper-end of a 660-665 million euro range targeted in July.

Core profit excluding leases and recurring free cash flow are expected to slightly top 415 million euros and 265 million euros respectively.

Growing demand for services from mobile phone operators and other radio network players are underpinning INWIT’s business, which at the moment remained broadly unaffected by the COVID-19 epidemic, the company said.

“Looking ahead, we think that 5G will drive the deployment of complementary technologies, and will push the creation of the overall eco-system”, Chief Executive Giovanni Ferigo told an analyst call.

INWIT said it would distribute a 0.30 euro dividend per share on its 2020 results and that it would increase the payout by an annual 7.5% in the following years.

The telecoms tower firm, which operates over 22,000 masts across Italy, said it reported a 0.9% quarterly rise in its revenue to 186.1 million euros, slightly above a 185 million euro analyst consensus provided by Refinitiv.

Organic earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose by 0.7%, totalling 172.8 million euros for July-September, just above expectations of 170 million euros.

INWIT shares have risen by some 20% since the start of the year, compared with a 16% drop in the Milan bourse’s blue-chip FTSE MIB index. (Reporting by Elvira Pollina; editing by David Evans, Kirsten Donovan)