* 9-month operating profit down 25 pct
* Sales up 1 pct to 21.6 bln eur
* Confirms 2012-13 targets
* Veolia Transdev deal to become final in 2013
* Shares up 7.3 pct
(Adds details on Veolia Transdev deal, share price)
By Elena Berton
PARIS, Nov 7 French utility Veolia Environnement
reassured investors that its plans slim down the group
and reduce debt remain on track after it reported a 25 percent
drop in nine-month profit.
Chief Executive Antoine Frerot announced plans in December
last year to scale back the business, which went on an expansion
spree and piled up debt when the economic crisis first hit in
Shares in Veolia, which have fallen by about 10 percent
since the start of the year as the waste market has continued to
deteriorate, were the best performer on the benchmark CAC 40
index in morning trade, up 7.3 percent at 1039GMT.
The water, waste and energy company said on Wednesday that
it could cut debt by up to 3 billion euros ($3.84 billion) in
the fourth quarter through the sale of several
small-to-medium-sized assets worth "hundreds of millions of
euros" and the closing of the sale of its U.S. waste business,
expected in the next few weeks.
But the company reiterated that there were no merger or
disposal talks with smaller rival Suez Environnement.
Last month both companies denied that they were working on a
merger after Le Monde newspaper reported that they had held
talks that fell apart over antitrust concerns.
Veolia's deal to cede control of transport joint venture
Veolia Transdev to its partner, state-owned Caisse des Depots et
Consignations (CDC), will become final in 2013 and will not have
an impact on this year's accounts, the company said.
Pending a final agreement, Veolia will cut its stake in
Veolia Transdev to 40 percent, while CDC will lift its holding
to 60 percent.
"After that, we want to go down to 20 percent within a
reasonable time frame, let's say two years, and become minority
shareholders," Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Francois Riolacci
Adjusted operating income in the first nine months of 2012
declined 25 percent to 840.9 million euros, while sales rose 1
percent at constant exchange rates, to 21.6 billion euros.
Veolia also confirmed its targets for 2012/13, including
disposals worth 5 billion euros and the shrinking of debt to
less than 12 billion euros. Debt stood at 15.2 billion euros at
the end of September.
($1 = 0.7812 euros)
(Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume in Paris; Editing by
James Regan and David Goodman)