* H1 recurring earnings per share up 5.5 pct
* Prime malls defy consumer belt-tightening -CEO
* Potential pick-up in European economy later this yr
* No comment on long-term 2017 outlook target
(Adds CEO comments)
PARIS, July 24 Unibail-Rodamco,
Europe's biggest property group, kept its full-year profit
targets after its shopping malls resisted recession and helped
deliver a 5.5 percent first-half rise in recurring earnings per
Paris-based Unibail's portfolio of malls is heavily exposed
to the recession-plagued euro zone but has defied the slump
thanks to its focus on large sites with high footfall and
well-known tenant brands like Apple, Samsung
Electronics and Primark.
With the company also getting an added fillip from a drop in
its cost of funding and with hopes for a pick-up in the European
economy before the end of the year, Unibail's chief executive
said he was confident the company would hit its 2013 target of
at least 5 percent growth in recurring earnings per share.
"Sales have actually picked up (in the first half)...Even in
Spain, large malls have really outperformed the market," Unibail
Chief Executive Christophe Cuvillier said on a call with
Unibail's CEO declined to comment on its more long-term
target to hit 14 euros in recurring profits per share by 2017.
First-half recurring profits per share rose to 5.21 euros.
Smaller rival Klepierre, whose top shareholders
are Simon Property and BNP Paribas, recently
upgraded its 2013 targets on the back of growth in Europe.
Unibail's net rental income rose 1.4 percent in the first
half of 2013, to 657 million euros ($868.45 million), with
shopping-centre growth offsetting declines at the group's
smaller office portfolio and exhibitions business.
Although consumer belt-tightening and rough weather meant
tenants' revenues failed to grow, Unibail's strategy of renewals
and re-lettings - as well as existing contracts - meant that on
a like-for-like basis mall rental income was up 4.7 percent.
Unibail is also trying to eke out more growth by opening new
sites and refurbishing existing ones. It is set to complete an
extension of a mall in Stockholm and to open a new shopping
centre at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport later this year.
Shares of Unibail are up 13 percent since June lows, giving
the company a market capitalisation of 18.06 billion euros.
($1 = 0.7565 euros)
(Reporting by Lionel Laurent and Alexandre Boksenbaum-Granier;
Editing by James Regan and Christian Plumb)