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UPDATE 1-Webuild's core earnings jump after Astaldi deal

(Recasts, adds details, comments from conference call, shares)

MILAN, March 22 (Reuters) - Italy’s largest construction company Webuild said on Monday its 2020 revenue was stable and core earnings jumped following its purchase of a majority stake in smaller rival Astaldi in November.

Webuild’s adjusted revenue was 5.3 billion euros ($6.3 billion) while adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) jumped to 779.1 million from 422.6 million in 2019.

It said both measures benefited from its purchase of the stake in Astaldi at a discount to its fair market value.

Webuild shares were up 6.4% at 1020 GMT with one analyst in Milan saying there were boosted by a surprise dividend announcement and a better-than-expected net debt.

At the end of December, Webuild’s net debt was 442 million euros, down from 631 million euros a year earlier. The company also said it would propose a dividend of 0.055 euros per share.

Webuild bought its stake in Astaldi in November under a state-backed plan dubbed “Project Italy” to revive the country’s construction industry and said it would acquire the remaining 34% of the shares to complete the merger by July.

Although Webuild’s results were hit by the pandemic last year, there were no contract cancellations, General Manager Corporate and Finance Massimo Ferrari told analysts on a conference call.

The company confirmed its outlook for 2021, saying it expected a core profit margin of 8% and for revenue to rise to 6.5 billion to 7.2 billion euros. ($1 = 0.8393 euros) (Reporting by Elisa Anzolin; Editing by David Clarke)

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