UPDATE 1-French builder Eiffage eyes more growth in 2022 as profit exceeds pre-COVID level

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Feb 23 (Reuters) - Eiffage expects earnings across its building and concessions businesses to grow further this year, the French company said on Wednesday as it posted an annual 2021 profit that surged past its pre-pandemic level.

The group said it was confident earnings would rise again in 2022 and had better visibility for the coming years off the back of several projects wins linked to the green energy transition.

Eiffage expects its contracting business - which builds roads, power infrastructure and residential blocks - to improve slightly this year.

Its concessions activities should meanwhile see more sustained growth as more people travel through its airports and motorways, the group added, following two years of on-and-off travel curbs.

Toll revenue from its state motorways unit remained below pre-pandemic levels last year, as a recovery in passenger traffic was slowed by renewed restrictions late last year as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus tore through Europe.

Its infrastructure and energy divisions however helped fuel its 2021 earnings growth, as the group benefited from contracts on wind farm projects and the Grand Paris Express - a major extension of the metro network around the French capital.

Eiffage’s 2021 net profit more than doubled year-on-year to 777 million euros ($879 million), surpassing the 725 million it recorded in 2019.

It proposed a dividend per share of 3.10 euros.

The group had previously said net earnings would build “significantly” from 2020, when coronavirus lockdowns helped shave off nearly half of them, and might return to their pre-pandemic level.

Building companies saw profits slashed under pandemic restrictions and resulting economic slowdowns, but are now benefiting from public investment in infrastructure and energy projects that aim to cut emissions and fuel costs. ($1 = 0.8836 euros) (Reporting by Sarah Morland; editing by David Evans)