UPDATE 2-Poste Italiane stumps up interim dividend after topping Q3 consensus

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MILAN, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Poste Italiane beat expectations in the third quarter, reporting flat operating profit as its payments and insurance businesses offset weakness at its mail and parcel unit.

The Italian post office approved for the first time the payment of an interim dividend, which will be of 0.154 euros, a third of the expected total dividend of 0.463 euros to be paid on this year’s results.

Operating profit, or earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT), came in at 459 million euros ($508 million) between July and September, up 0.8% compared with the same period last year.

Analysts were expecting EBIT of 431 million according to a poll published by the company.

Shares in Poste Italiane fell 1.4% in early trading, underperforming an almost flat Milan blue-chip index, as the stock has gained nearly 60% from the beginning of this year.

Under its business plan to 2022, the group is investing in logistics to boost its parcel delivery business to offset the fall in traditional mail activity.

In the third quarter, the operating loss at its mail and parcel division widened to 77 million euros from 7 million euros last year when the unit had benefited from an increase in the price of registered letters. The division was also impacted by higher costs to support growth.

The group’s payments and insurance units reported double-digit growth in operating profit, driven by the wider use of new payments services and the offer of new property and casualty insurance products.

Total costs not linked to the workforce were up 7.8% in the third quarter partly due to investments in logistics and depreciation and amortisation.

The state-controlled group - which comprises insurance and a financial division, the traditional mail and parcel business and a digital payments unit - said it was on track to meet its 2019 goals. ($1 = 0.9031 euros) (Reporting by Francesca Landini, editing by Giulia Segreti, Louise Heavens and David Evans)