May 24, 2018 / 5:54 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Compagnie des Alpes still eying stake sale, H1 profits rise

* Investors still interested, group increasingly courted-CEO

* CEO will however not commit to a timetable for a deal

* H1 EBITDA up 6.7 pct (Recasts with CEO comments on potential investors)

By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS, May 24 (Reuters) - Compagnie des Alpes said on Thursday it was still working on a plan to sell a stake to potential investors to speed up its expansion as it posted higher first-half profits.

“The plan is still on the agenda. It is taking longer than expected. We are working on it very seriously,” Chairman and CEO Dominique Marcel told a conference call.

Asked if potential partners, including China’s Fosun , were still interested, he said: “These partners remain interested and we are getting a lot of interest, we are being increasingly courted,”

Marcel would however not commit to a timetable for a deal.

“I am very calm. The company is developing very well, which puts us in the best situation to do a deal.”

Compagnie des Alpes (CDA) operates 11 ski resorts in France and 13 leisure parks in Europe. It wants to expand in high-growth markets such as China, and has been looking for partners.

But talks that started more than two years ago had been put on hold ahead of the May 2017 presidential election in France and were further delayed by the search for a new boss at key shareholder state-owned bank Caisse des Depots, sources have told Reuters.

Fosun, which already controls French holiday group Club Med, told Reuters in July 2017 it was still interested in CDA, where it could take a holding of up to 10 percent.

However, French politicians and local officials in the French Alps had voiced concerns about French regions losing control of ski resorts to foreign companies.

Caisse des Depots (CDC), which is CDA’s main shareholder with a 39.5 percent stake, has said it would stay as the reference shareholder and keep the company anchored in France.

Eric Lombard was named in November as the new head of CDC by French President Emmanuel Macron. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 6.7 percent to 169.8 million euros ($199.35 million) in the six months to March 31, helped by higher sales at the ski operations and theme parks.

The company’s fiscal year runs from October to September.

The ski business, which makes the bulk of group sales, suffered during the first two weeks of April due to a late school holiday calendar and a transport strike in France but went on to recover somewhat for the end of the ski season.

As a result, the group expects growth in sales for the ski division to be slightly higher than 2 percent for full year 2017/18.

$1 = 0.8518 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Editing by Ingrid Melander and Alexandra Hudson

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