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UPDATE 1-France's Bouygues hikes outlook for H2 after Q3 rebound

(Adds details, CFO comment)

Nov 19 (Reuters) - French conglomerate Bouygues on Thursday raised its outlook for the second half of the year after a strong third-quarter, which saw a pick-up in construction activity and sustained growth in sales from services at Bouygues Telecom.

Bouygues’s activities, which range from construction to media and telecoms, progressively recovered during the quarter to the end of September after a sales slump in the first half of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The situation is now fundamentally different than during the first-wave of lockdowns, when we had to stop most of our activities,” Chief Financial Pascal Grangé told reporters in a call.

Bouygues’ construction activities, which represent the bulk of its sales, fell 1% in the third-quarter but recovered from a 19% slump in the first-half.

Bouygues Telecom saw sales from services increase 5% in the quarter, despite a negative impact on roaming.

It plans to have over 28,000 5G sites by 2023 and will open its 5G network for users on Dec. 1, aiming for national coverage within a year.

The group now expects the current operating margin in the second-half of 2020 to be slightly higher than in the second-half of 2019, while for Bouygues Telecom, growth in sales from services is now seen between 5% and 6%, against around 4% previously.

It had originally forecast significant profitability in the second half of 2020, although without reaching the particularly high levels of the second half of 2019.

Bouygues reported a nine-month current operating profit of 681 million euros ($806.71 million), down 39% year-on-year, but beating a 571 million euros consensus estimate.