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By Francesca Landini
MILAN, March 9 (Reuters) - Shares in Autogrill jumped more than 5 percent on Thursday after the airports and motorway caterer promised steady revenue growth over the next three years following a 53 percent leap in 2016 net profit.
The Italian group, which runs restaurants and bars at some of the busiest airports in the world, said it expected sales to grow on average between 5 and 7 percent a year in the 2016-2019 period.
The new guidance was calculated excluding the contribution of a French business Autogrill sold last year and on the basis of a euro/dollar exchange rate of 1.06, it said.
"The group expects good revenue growth in North America, while it will focus on efficiency in Europe and Italy in particular," Chief Executive Gianmario Tondato da Ruos told analysts during a conference call.
Despite a difficult comparison with 2016 results, analysts said the guidance indicated better-than-expected sales growth and cited this as one reason behind the surge in the stock.
The group reported sales of 4.51 billion euros ($4.77 billion) last year, up 4.6 percent, including the effects of acquisitions and disposals. This was just below a forecast of 4.54 billion euros, according to Thomson Reuters SmartEstimate.
The Milan-based group is reshaping its activities to boost its presence at U.S. airports while streamlining its European business. Last year it bought Stellar Partners, a U.S. airport convenience retailer, and CMS, which runs restaurants at Los Angeles and Las Vegas airports.
Tondato added that restaurants and bars in northern Europe and in the rest of the world would continue to enjoy strong growth and an improvement in profitability.
The group also pledged to pay between 40 and 50 percent of its net income as dividends in the next few years after proposing a dividend of 0.16 euros per share on 2016 results.
$1 = 0.9446 euros Editing by Mark Potter