UPDATE 1-Autogrill sees recovery signs after tax hits first-half net

Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:52am EDT

* H1 net down 64 pct at 4.3 mln euros after tax charge

* Airport ops grow, Italy motorway traffic hit by recession

* Food unit revenue 1.84 billion euros vs 1.86 billion

* Travel retail business up 3.8 percent to 922.9 million

* Shares up 1.2 percent vs 0.5 pct drop in FTSE MIB index (Adds details, analyst)

By Agnieszka Flak

MILAN, July 31 (Reuters) - Autogrill SpA, the world's biggest operator of shops at airports, sees recovery signs across most markets except for home territory Italy, still feeling the impact of its longest postwar recession.

The operator of highway restaurants and airport stores from Canada to India said first-half earnings were helped by growth in its airport operations, offsetting difficulties along Italian motorways where recession hit travelers' pockets.

"The trend in the United States was good and beginning in the second quarter Europe began to gain increasing solidity, with the exception of Italian motorways," Chief Executive Gianmario Tondato Da Ruos said in a statement.

The group, which is splitting off its smaller but growing travel retail and duty-free unit from its food and beverages business, reported a 64 percent drop in net profit for the six months through June to 4.3 million euros ($5.7 million), primarily resulting from a 10.2 million tax charge.

The tax charge was increased from 1.7 million euros in the first half of 2012, due to no provision being made for deferred tax assets due to losses in some European countries, especially in Italy, given the limited visibility on the timing of any recovery.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the individual units for the period were marginally lower compared with last year.

Autogrill expects a stock market listing of the travel retail unit by October, hoping the split will allow it to sound out market opportunities and pave the way for possible tie-ups at either company.

Shares in the group initially dipped after the results but later recovered and were trading up 1.2 percent at 11.44 euros by 1238 GMT, outperforming a 0.5 percent drop in Italy's blue-chip FTSE MIB index.

"Both the figures for the second quarter and the forecasts came in line with expectations," a Milan-based analyst said.

First-half revenue for the food unit fell to 1.84 billion euros from 1.86 billion, while those for the travel retail business increased 3.8 percent to 922.9 million.

"Travel retail continues to see excellent income results and strong cashflow generation," Tondato Da Ruos added.

Autogrill, controlled by Italy's Benetton family, gave separate outlooks for the two units for the full year.

The food business is expected to report revenue of 4.05 billion euros and EBITDA of between 315 and 325 million euros, lower than last year, while travel retail is expected to report 2013 revenue of 2.05 billion euros and an EBITDA of between 250 and 260 million, roughly flat.

($1 = 0.7547 euros) (Additional reporting by Elisa Anzolin; Editing by David Holmes)