February 5, 2014 / 6:41 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Motorway and airport traffic lift Vinci profits

* Full-year sales rise 4.4 pct to 40.3 bln eur

* Net profit rises 2.3 pct to 1.96 bln eur

* Proposes unchanged dividend of 1.77 eur/shr

* Group sees better airport, motorway traffic in 2014

* Expects higher margin in construction and road building (Adds detail, background)

By Natalie Huet

PARIS, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Vinci posted better-than-expected annual results on Wednesday and forecast revenue would stabilise in 2014, helped by improved motorway and airport passenger traffic, and a solid construction order backlog.

Europe’s biggest construction and concessions company said net profit rose 2.3 percent to 1.96 billion euros ($2.65 billion) last year on a 4.4 percent rise in revenue to 40.3 billion.

The French group, which makes less than a fifth of its revenue in emerging markets, has benefited from an uptick in its construction business and forays into new concessions, particularly airports.

Last year, Vinci spent 3.08 billion euros on Portuguese airport operator ANA and 365 million to raise its stake in French airport group ADP to 8 percent.

The deals pushed net debt up to 14.1 billion euros, 12.8 percent higher than a year earlier. Vinci’s long-term debt is rated BBB+ by Standard & Poor’s and Baa1 by Moody‘s, both with stable outlooks.

Vinci said it expected the economic environment to remain difficult in 2014, especially in its main domestic market, but that its high order backlog in construction and road building gave it good visibility, with its margin in that business expected to improve slightly.

The company added that the sale of a majority stake in its Vinci Park parking concession business would lift earnings.

Vinci could fetch close to 2 billion euros for the business, according to sources close to the deal, who told Reuters last month that final bids for the unit were due by early February.

Vinci said it planned to launch a 2 billion euro investment plan for its French motorway network in the first half in exchange for an extension of its concessions.

Talks between companies and the French state over a so-called stimulus plan to revamp the country’s motorways started more than a year ago.

Vinci added that its order intake for construction and road building rose 5.2 percent to 34.4 billion euros in 2013.

The French group proposed keeping its dividend at 1.77 euros a share. ($1 = 0.7390 euros) (Editing by James Regan)

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