Veolia reports sales slip, shares surge

French water and utilities giant Veolia reported results broadly in line with expectations on Thursday, with a 4.0-percent fall of sales in the first nine months of the year.

But shares in the company shot up by 6.97 percent to 13.05 euros. The overall French market was up by 0.05 percent in morning trading.

One broker who declined to be named said that although the results were lacklustre, the shares had risen because some investors who had expected the shares to fall after rising strongly this year, had closed short-selling positions.

But at RBC brokers, analyst Martin Young said the shares were firm because the group had confirmed its targets, reassuring investors about its determination to cut costs.

Veolia is a leading global supplier of services to treat and supply water, to provide energy and manage waste, and competes with another French giant in the sector Suez Environnement.

The group said that in the nine months sales fell bgy 4.0 percent to 16.16 billion euros ($21.8 billion), but on a comparable asset basis the fall was 1.9 percent.

Activities by the two main divisions of water and waste management were sluggish. Water activities declined by 5.0 percent to 7.5 billion euros and waste by 5.2 percent to 6.0 billion euros.

However, the slowing of waste management volumes was easing up, the group said. Activity had steadied in the third quarter, and had risen by 1.0 percent on a comparable asset basis.

But sales by the energy division, for which Veolia has just announced a deal with French power group EDF to share out the assets of their big joint venture Dalkia, held up, advancing 0.3 percent to 2.5 billion euros.

The company's operating cash flow measure, similar to earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda), fell by 8.0 percent to 1.29 billion euros.

But recurrent operating profit rose by 19.0 percent to 620.8 million euros, mainly because the group had made provisions at the same time last year.

Chief executive Antoine Frerot told a telephone press conference: "The group is continuing its strategy and this has enabled our performance to be in line with the recovery path we have set ourselves."