* Third quarter core profit 317 mln euros, vs poll 307 mln
* Predicts rising profit for coming three years
* Says open to expand in China
* Says winter will not be easy as airlines might reduce flights (Adds CEO comments, outlook)
By Peter Dinkloh and Peter Maushagen
FRANKFURT, Nov 6 (Reuters) - German airport operator Fraport earned more than expected in the third quarter and predicted three years of rising profits supported by a fourth runway at its Frankfurt airport which has increased passenger numbers and air traffic.
Fraport makes more than a third of its operating earnings from retail outlets at F rankfurt and sales of surplus land. It has expanded one of its two terminals there to tap passenger growth after the fourth runway opened in 2010.
Chief Executive Stefan Schulte said the investment costs from the new runway and terminal were booked so that the increase in traffic would help operating earnings. He declined to give a more specific forecast.
The group’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in the three months through September rose by a third to 317 million euros ($405 million), beating market expectations in a Reuters poll of analysts for an EBITDA of 307 million euros.
Fraport’s shares rose 5.3 percent at 1429 GMT, outperforming a 0.7 percent rise in the index of medium-sized companies in Frankfurt.
Concessions at 13 airports worldwide, including in Turkey and Peru, make the company’s international business its second biggest earnings contributor.
“We are very well positioned with the international business, where we expect further growth,” Schulte said, adding that expansion in China was a possibility.
The company’s strategy is paying off with investors. It trades at 17 times expected earnings per share for the next 12 months, according to StarMine, compared with a multiple of 13 for rivals Flughafen Wien and Flughafen Zuerich .
But the airport faced protests over Frankfurt’s fourth runway and has had to spend more money on reducing noise pollution than planned. As a result, it has predicted profits at its aviation business will fall this year.
In addition, airlines are facing pressure on profits from the weak economic climate and are reducing flights.
Schulte to predicted a difficult winter. “We will have to manage our business very closely,” he said.
Fraport cut its expectations for revenue in 2012 and said sales would not exceed 2.5 billion euros, as previously predicted, because it is investing less in Bulgarian airports Varna and Bourgas as well as its Peruvian airport in Lima.
Investments in concessions are booked as sales under Fraport’s accounting standards, a spokesman said. As the company needs more time to spend a mid-double digit million euros amount on those three airports, it will book less revenue this year than it expected, he added.
Freight volumes in Frankfurt have been hurt by a night flight ban imposed at the end of October and by weaker economic growth due to the European financial crisis, with volumes down 8.1 percent in the first nine months of the year.
The group reiterated its expectations for 2012 earnings.
$1 = 0.7823 euros Reporting by Peter Dinkloh; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane Merriman