(Adds detail, background)
PARIS, April 24 (Reuters) - Europe’s biggest construction and concessions company Vinci reported a 4.1 percent rise in first-quarter sales on Thursday, supported by its main contracting business, which includes construction and road building.
The company said like-for-like sales rose to 8.6 billion euros ($11.88 billion), helped by a 4.5 percent gain from the contracting arm, but order intake for the quarter was down 2.2 percent on last year at 8.7 billion euros. The order book stood at 30.7 billion euros at the end of the quarter.
Vinci said it expects full-year traffic for its motorways division to increase by “close to 2 percent” and repeated previous guidance that total 2014 group revenue would be similar to its 2013 level on a like-for-like basis.
Like other builders, Vinci has seen construction slow since the 2008 crisis and has recently been expanding into higher-growth, higher-margin concessions such as airports and motorways. It recently agreed to sell the bulk of its parking lot business to free up cash for acquisitions.
Last week, Vinci’s board agreed to extend CEO Xavier Huillard’s mandate for four more years and to appoint Pierre Coppey as chief operating officer, a new role in which he will be required to drive the concessions business.
Huillard has said he wants Vinci to become a key player in airport concessions after it spent 3.1 billion euros on Portuguese airport operator ANA and 365 million last year to raise its stake in French airport group ADP to 8 percent.
Vinci also paid road-building company Colas about 800 million euros to become the sole shareholder of motorway operator Cofiroute, which operates 1,100 km (700 miles) of motorways in western France and the A86 road near Paris. ($1 = 0.7236 Euros)
Reporting by Andrew Callus; Editing by James Regan and David Goodman