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PARIS, Feb 23 (Reuters) - French conglomerate Bouygues said on Thursday that improved profitability at its telecoms unit helped it deliver a forecast-beating operating profit last year despite lower sales, and it predicted a further rise in group profitability for 2017.
The robust performance at the telecoms business, France's third-biggest mobile operator, which Bouygues failed to merge with market leader Orange last year, is likely to further reassure it that the unit can thrive on its own at a time of renewed speculation about possible sector consolidation.
The family-controlled group, which also builds roads and owns TF1, France's biggest private broadcaster, said current operating profit reached 1.121 billion euros ($1.2 billion) last year, against 941 million in 2015.
Sales reached 31.738 billion euros, down 2 percent from a year earlier.
Analysts polled by Inquiry Financial for Reuters were predicting operating profit of 1.054 billion euros on sales of 31.673 billion euros.
$1 = 0.9473 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta