UPDATE 1-UniCredit lowers 2019 revenue guidance, sticks to profit goal

Gianluca Semeraro

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MILAN, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Italy's biggest bank by assets UniCredit on Wednesday trimmed its revenue target for 2019, citing expectations that interest rates will remain low, though it confirmed its net profit and dividend goals.

UniCredit reported a net profit of 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in the second quarter of the year, thanks to the sale of its stake in online broker Fineco, which it executed in two stages in May and July.

Analysts had expected on average a quarterly profit of 2.1 billion euros based on a consensus provided by the bank.

The revenue target for the year was lowered to 18.7 billion euros from 19 billion euros due to the "prevailing environment with rates expected to be lower for much longer," Chief Executive Jean Pierre Mustier said in a statement.

The comparison figure of 19 billion euros was restated from 19.8 billion euros previously to take into account the sale of Fineco.

Mustier confirmed a full-year net profit goal of 4.7 billion euros, saying that while the second half of the year was expected to be in line with the first six months, the bank would benefit form a lower tax rate.

Highlighting the challenges banks like UniCredit face to grow revenues, UniCredit said net interest income -- a measure of how much money a retail bank makes from its core business -- fell 2.1 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier to 2.6 billion euros. Fees were down 3 percent. UniCredit is focusing on cutting costs and bolstering its financial strength - together with the Fineco sale, the bank announced in May it would cut its Italian government bond portfolio and accelerate bad loan disposals.

Mustier - who will present a new, four-year business plan in December - is also looking to reduce the group's exposure to Italy. Sources have said he is working to ring-fence its foreign operations from its home market to improve the group's cost of funding.

Asked about the plan, Mustier told reporters on a post-results conference call: "We can work on the group structure in order to have a strong balance sheet to finance our clients, corporate and retail, in a very effective way and we can take action in order to limit the impact of any potential macro economic shock on the cost of funding."

He added UniCredit would remain headquartered and listed in Italy. ($1 = 0.8925 euros) (editing by Silvia Aloisi and Alexandra Hudson)