UPDATE 1-Dutch telco KPN annual earnings meet forecasts, sees fractional growth in 2021

AMSTERDAM, Jan 27 (Reuters) - KPN NV, the largest Dutch telecommunications company, on Wednesday posted annual core earnings in line with estimates, as retail clients made heavy use of its services amid national lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) after leases came in at 2.32 billion euros ($2.82 billion), up from 2.29 billion euros in 2019.

Core earnings were in line with analysts’ forecasts in a company-compiled poll after Chief Eexcutive Officer Joost Farwerck set it as a target during an investors’ conference last November.

The company, which shed more than 1,000 jobs last year, forecast on Wednesday an EBITDA goal of 2.345 billion euros for 2021, after leases, and a 4.6% dividend hike.

“During the year we saw encouraging developments in our consumer segment,” Farwerck said in a statement, citing increasing use of the company’s fibre optic broadband services.

“Although we face COVID-19 headwinds in the business segment ... we see growth in our core products.”

But, annual revenue dipped 3.9% to 5.275 billion euros, while Farwerck had cautioned investors not to expect a return to growth any time soon.

KPN expects 3-5% annual growth in dividend and EBITDA after leases of 2.45 billion euros by 2023. The company intends to increase investments in its fibre optic and 5G networks, while cutting costs.

The Dutch company, which employs 10,102 people, said 2021 capital spending would increase to 1.2 billion euros from 1.15 billion euros, while free cash flow would remain unchanged at 765 million euros.

Shares closed lower at 2.61 euros on Tuesday, down 2.1% over the past 12 months.

$1 = 0.8224 euros Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Sherry Jacob-Phillips