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French group Bouygues' bullish 2019 outlook lifts company's shares

FILE PHOTO: A Bouygues company logo is seen at the World Efficiency congress in Paris, France, October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French conglomerate Bouygues predicted an increase in earnings for 2019 and growth at its telecoms arm after posting higher 2018 profits that lifted its shares.

The family-controlled group has recently had problems at its construction division which have been offset by the strength of its telecoms unit.

However, Bouygues said all its main businesses, including construction arms such as Colas, improved in the fourth quarter.

Shares in Bouygues rose by 4.8 percent, among the best performers on the Paris stock market.

"Fourth quarter results reveal stronger than expected profitability and stronger-than-expected top-line performances at Colas and Construction," wrote brokerage Jefferies, which kept a "buy" rating on Bouygues shares.

Bouygues' current operating profits rose 7.5 percent from a year earlier to 1.51 billion euros (1.31 billion pounds), while sales rose 8 percent to 35.56 billion euros.

Core earnings at Bouygues Telecom, France's third-biggest mobile operator which Bouygues failed to merge with market leader Orange in 2016, rose by 171 million euros from a year earlier to 1.27 billion euros.

For 2019, Bouygues said it hoped to improve group profits and generate some 300 million euros of free cash flow at Bouygues Telecom.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)