French group Edenred strikes confident note for 2018 as annual profits rise

PARIS, Feb 20 (Reuters) - French prepaid meal voucher and card provider company Edenred expressed confidence over its prospects for this year, predicting further profit and sales growth.

Edenred, which helps firms manage staff expenses and benefits and is best known for its "Ticket Restaurant" vouchers, made the forecast after reporting record 2017 earnings and handing investors a 37 percent dividend hike.

Edenred, which competes with caterers Sodexo and Compass as well as credit card networks MasterCard and Visa, said 2017 earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) reached 437 million euros ($541 million) against 370 million in 2016, slightly above estimates for an EBIT of 430 million euros in a ThomsonReuters I/B/E/S poll.

The company's own guidance had been for a 2017 EBIT of 420 million to 445 million euros.

($1 = 0.8078 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)