(Adds details from press conference, analyst comment)
By Robert Hetz and Sonya Dowsett
MADRID, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Spanish infrastructure group Abertis hopes to close a deal to buy thousands of radio masts from Italian mobile phone network operator Wind by the end of this month, it said on Wednesday after reporting better than expected results.
The talks with Wind Telecomunicazione, the Italian subsidiary of Russian telecoms group Vimpelcom, were expected to lose their exclusivity this month if the two parties could not reach final agreement on the sale and leaseback deal, which has been estimated to be worth up to 800 million euros ($900 million).
“We are in two-way talks that are still pending some details and we could have a resolution during February,” Chief Financial Officer Jose Aljaro said.
Earlier Abertis reported a 10.5 percent rise in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in 2014, to 3.1 billion euros, beating analysts’ forecasts as its toll roads business, its biggest division, got a boost from rises in traffic in both Europe and Latin America.
However, net profits were up by smaller than expected 6.2 percent at 655 million euros due to weaker currencies in Brazil, Argentina and Chile, missing the average of analysts’ forecasts of 690 million euros.
Net debt rose by 859 million euros over the period to 13.8 billion euros largely due to the incorporation of debt from Puerto Rican road company Metropistas, after Abertis became the majority shareholder in February last year.
Overall, traffic on the company’s global road network rose 2.3 percent last year, with the biggest increases in Chile, Brazil and France.
The French government and motorway operators are currently in dispute over a government decision to freeze road toll prices this year but Abertis’s chief executive Francisco Reynes said on Wednesday he was sure the dispute would be resolved.
Traffic on Abertis’s Spanish roads network also rose last year, as the country recovers from a six-year economic downturn, with the growth rate accelerating in the first few weeks of 2015 to hit 4 percent, a rate not seen since 2006.
Deutsche Bank said it expected that rate of growth to be sustained in 2015.
“We think this is the main upside potential on consensus forecast, since traffic in Spain is still nearly 30 percent below the peak levels of 2007,” the bank’s analysts said in a research note. ($1 = 0.8781 euros) (Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Greg Mahlich)