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Italy's Webuild order book drives core profit goals

FILE PHOTO: A worker is seen on a scaffolding of a building in Rome

By Federico Maccioni and Alberto Chiumento

(Reuters) - Italy's largest construction company Webuild surprised markets on Thursday by indicating its core profit would almost double in 2025, after growing as much as 30% this year.

Under a new three-year plan unveiled on Thursday, Webuild said it had already won 53.4 billion euros worth of orders, which covers 95% of its expected revenues and profit targets for the 2023-2025 period.

Shares in Webuild closed up 12% after the plan with traders noting that the 2023 core profit goal of 720 million euros to 760 million euros was well above a market consensus of 580 million euros.

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The group guided for a 2025 core profit range of 990 million euros to 1.05 billion euros.

Webuild, which forecast a 57-billion-euro backlog by the end of 2025, also highlighted the commercial impact of massive infrastructure projects in its markets of Italy, the U.S. and Australia, where it recently acquired the assets of rival Clough.

Clough's acquisition is "highly strategic" and stands as a cornerstone to expand Webuild's footprint in a "huge" market, General Manager Corporate and Finance Massimo Ferrari told Reuters.

The Australian firm is also one of few companies in the country that could play a role in Canberra's increase in defense spending, CEO Pietro Salini told analysts during a post-results call.

The plan, which foresees a turnover of 10.5 billion euros to 11 billion euros in 2025, does not include the potential boost that could come from mega projects such as Texas' high-speed railway and Italy's Messina Bridge, as well as operating cost cuts stemming from reorganizing subsidiaries.

"We still believe the Messina Bridge project is doable and that it would bring tremendous added value," Ferrari said.

Italy's cabinet ministers on Thursday approved reviving the company tasked with designing and building the controversial bridge that would connect Sicily to the mainland.

Webuild, which said it did not have any exposure to Silicon Valley Bank or Credit Suisse, plans to distribute between 160 million euros to 170 million euros in dividends under the plan.

($1 = 0.9430 euros)

(Reporting by Federico Maccioni and Alberto Chiumento, editing by Gianluca Semeraro, Valentina Za and Josie Kao)