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Bouygues posts profit rise helped by energy arm Equans

FILE PHOTO: VivaTech conference dedicated to innovation and startups in Paris

By Michal Aleksandrowicz

(Reuters) - French conglomerate Bouygues posted a 19% pro forma rise in annual operating profit on Tuesday as strong performances by energy arm Equans, road-building firm Colas and construction units offset weakness at real estate arm Immobilier and TV broadcaster TF1.

Its shares rose more than 4.5% in early trading after the diversified group also beat analysts' expectations on 2023 sales.

The group reported current operating profit from activities (COPA) of 2.41 billion euros ($2.61 billion) for 2023, up from 2.02 billion a year earlier.

Sales rose 3% to 56.01 billion euros on a pro forma basis including Equans which it acquired in late 2022, beating an LSEG poll estimate of 55.44 billion.

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The company had guided for an annual COPA of above 2.16 billion and sales close to 54.4 billion, adding it expects both metrics to increase slightly in 2024.

Bouygues' acquisition of Equans from French power group Engie as the family-owned group — already present in civil engineering, construction, media and telecoms sectors — seeks growth in energy transition and services.

Equans, which was combined with Bouygues' existing energies and services business, made up one third of the group's sales last year.

Bouygues said the energy arm prioritises margins and has a selective approach to construction contracts for data centres, solar farms and EV battery factories in Europe and the United States, as well as maintenance for industrial sites and public buildings.

Immobilier "was affected by the extremely challenging market conditions in France", CEO Olivier Roussat said in a statement.

Immobilier's year-end backlog was down 32% from a year earlier, with residential property reservations down 25% and commercial property activity at a standstill as investors delay decisions.

Bouygues said it had separated the posts of chairman and CEO at the unit, and postponed the launch of some projects.

Bouygues said it would propose a dividend of 1.90 euros per share for 2023, up by 10 cents from a year earlier.

($1 = 0.9217 euros)

(Reporting by Michal Aleksandrowicz in Gdansk; editing by Milla Nissi and Jason Neely)