MILAN Italy's biggest utility Enel (ENEI.MI) posted a 7.6 percent rise in core earnings for 2013, boosted by the sale of assets as business in main markets continued to struggle.
Full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) were 17 billion euros ($22.98 billion), a statement from Enel said, compared with a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S consensus of 16.1 billion euros.
A one-off $1.8 billion gain from the sale of Arctic Russia last year boosted the profits figure.
"Stripping out the one-offs the results are bang in line with market expectations," a London-based analyst said.
Enel said the fall in core earnings, excluding one-offs, was due to the weak performance in Spain and Italy where it usually generates about half of its total production.
Enel, which owns 92 percent of Spanish utility Endesa (ELE.MC), did not give a geographical breakdown of the preliminary results.
The economic crisis continues to take its toll on utilities in Europe as falling power demand, weaker electricity prices and increased competition from renewable energy sources squeeze margins.
Enel, one of Europe's most indebted utilities, said its net debt at the end of 2013 stood at 39.9 billion euros from 42.9 billion euros a year earlier.
The state-controlled utility had targeted debt of 42 billion euros at the end of the year. But its CEO Fulvio Conti said at the end of last year debt could come down to 40 billion euros.
The group is aiming to make disposals worth 6 billion euros in the period 2013-2014. To date it has sold about 1.7 billion of assets.
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Louise Ireland)