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Caterer Sodexo expects remote working to hit business

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of French food services and facilities management group Sodexo is seen at the company headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris
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(Reuters) -French catering and food services group Sodexo warned on Thursday the return to remote working this winter could affect its volumes, but said it was not worried if COVID-19 restrictions remained short-lived.

Caterers have been hit hard by the pandemic and are looking for new ways to adapt to recurring lockdowns, more working from home and fewer events.

Chief Finance Officer Marc Rolland said during a call with journalists that catering for the white-collar sector could decrease a little.

The French parliament approved on Thursday the government's latest measures to tackle COVID-19, including a vaccine pass, and barring unvaccinated people from hospitality venues and trains.

Rolland said it was too early to say if the group could achieve its annual forecasts, but noted first-quarter organic growth of 17.5% was at the top end of its 15-18% full-year guidance range.

"At this stage, we maintain our annual guidance and remain confident in the continued recovery," chairwoman and interim Chief Executive Officer Sophie Bellon said in a statement.

The Paris-based firm, one of the world's biggest catering companies alongside Britain's Compass, said revenues reached 95% of pre-COVID levels in the first quarter, with recovery visible in all activities, segments and geographies.

Revenues rose to 5.26 billion euros ($5.95 billion) from 4.43 billion a year earlier. Analysts had on average expected 5.24 billion euros, according to a company-provided consensus.

Sodexo, which in July launched a search for a new chief executive to replace Denis Machuel, said the process was moving forward, but its was taking time to choose the right person.

Sodexo shares were down 1.8% to 79.58 euros at 0802 GMT.

($1 = 0.8844 euros)

(Reporting by Anait MiridzhanianEditing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Mark Potter)

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