Finmeccanica seeks firm bids for its assets by year end

MILAN Thu Nov 8, 2012 2:08pm EST

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian defence company Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI) aims to secure firm offers by the end of the year for its non-core assets as it seeks to raise liquidity and prevent its credit rating slipping to junk.

The state-controlled company, the second-biggest industrial group by sales, said on Thursday it had returned to profit in the first nine months of 2012.

But the sale of assets could be slowed down if Chairman Giuseppe Orsi is distracted or even pushed aside as the result of an ongoing corruption probe over a 560 million euros ($730 million) Indian helicopter contract.

He denies any wrongdoing and has vowed to stay at his post to clear his name. But some Italian political parties have raised questions about whether he should remain at the helm.

An Indian defence ministry official confirmed on Thursday, Finmeccanica will deliver the first of the helicopters in the so-called VVIP Indian order by December.

Finmeccanica reported nine-month adjusted EBITA of 741 million euros, rebounding from a loss of 188 million euros a year earlier when it was hit by a heavy provision on its Boeing 787 contract.

The group needs to deliver on a promise to quickly raise 1 billion euros from disposals to keep its credit rating, now just above non investment grade.

It has put up for sale its non-core energy and transport assets, which include engineering firm AnsaldoEnergia and loss-making train maker AnsaldoBreda.

Core margins rose to 6.8 percent in the third quarter as efforts to improve profitability beginning to show some results.

On a weaker note, net debt rose to 4.8 billion euros amid analyst concerns the group could drop its 2012 target for a positive free cash flow.

The group however confirmed that target along with those for sales and core earnings.

Shares in Finmeccanica fell 2.7 percent on Thursday ahead of results.

($1=0.7857 euros)

(Editing by Lisa Jucca and Mike Nesbit)