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UPDATE 2-Ticket Restaurant group Edenred's targets leave market hungry

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  • EDNMY

(Adds detail from call, quotes)

By Juliette Portala and Sarah Morland

March 2 (Reuters) - French vouchers and cards provider Edenred on Tuesday set a lower-than-expected 2021 profit target as it remained cautious over lockdown measures in Europe and Latin America, sending shares lower.

Best known for its 'Ticket Restaurant' vouchers, Edenred said it expected a 6% rise in like-for-like earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA), disappointing analysts who expected a 12.6% target.

Shares were down about 3% in early afternoon trade after slumping nearly 6% as one of the worst performers on France's SBF 120 index.

"Six percent is the minimum," CEO Bertrand Dumazy said on a call. "We will do anything we can to beat that."

He added this would depend on how quickly countries emerge from lockdowns.

"Good surprises are not ruled out throughout 2021, but we need to be careful at the start of the year," he told Reuters, pointing to renewed restrictions in Europe.

Edenred, which helps companies manage staff expenses and benefits, expects its digital offerings to boost 2021 earnings, after the second half of last year benefitted from more remote working.

It has been moving to fully digital services and serving up a "virtual canteen" which gives users access to partner restaurants for meals at home or in the office.

Dumazy said the company, whose clients include Spotify , Siemens and Orange, would continue to invest in technology, earmarking around 300 million euros ($361 million) for 2021 after spending 250-300 million euros in 2020.

Edenred posted a 2020 EBITDA of 580 million euros, slightly beating a company-compiled consensus.

It proposed a dividend of 0.75 euros per share for 2020, up about 7% from a year earlier.

($1 = 0.8318 euros) (Reporting by Juliette Portala and Sarah Morland ; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Jason Neely)