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By Patricia Rua
LISBON Dec 6 Portugal's largest builder
Mota-Engil sees its operations in Latin America taking
over from Africa as its main growth engine as it expands away
from its stricken home market.
"We are sure that growth abroad will continue and Latin
American operations will be the ones that grow the most," Chief
Financial Officer Goncalo Moura Martins told Reuters.
Portugal's construction sector is one of the most hard-hit
parts of the economy, which is suffering its worst recession
since the 1970s, with many companies going out of business and
others struggling to obtain loans.
Mota is already present in Peru and Mexico, where revenue
soared 37 percent in the first nine months of the year to make
up 13 percent of total sales, and plans to grow in other markets
The company's more traditional growth engine in Africa,
mainly Angola, managed revenue growth of just 8 percent, but
still accounts for a much larger 31 percent share of overall
"It's part of the group's strategy to seek projects in the
same (Latin American) region so we are studying, jointly with
local teams, the Brazilian and Colombian markets," Moura Martins
said on Thursday.
Mota has recently acquired a majority stake in Empresa
Construtora Brasil for 19 million euros ($24.8 million), making
its ambitions in South America's largest economy.
The company's strategic plan envisages 45 percent sales
growth through 2015, when foreign operations will account for 70
percent of revenue, up from 53 percent. Latin America should
make up 27 percent of sales by then.
The CFO said Mota's financing needs for this year and next
were covered and it was negotiating financing for 2014.
Moura Martins said the company is focused on reducing its
debt burden via cash-flow generation and said there were no
plans to sell stakes in companies such as metal structures maker
Martifer and motorway concession holder Ascendi.
Its net debt dropped to 862 million euros in September from
883 million at the end of 2011.
Mota has a 37.5 percent stake in Martifer and 60 percent of
Mota shares have risen 30 percent so far this year, helped
by its international growth, far outperforming Lisbon's PSI20
stock index, down 2 percent. They rose 2.2 percent to
close at 1.38 euros on Thursday.
($1 = 0.7652 euros)
(Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by David Holmes)