(Adds CEO interview)
By Sergio Goncalves
LISBON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - EDP-Energias de Portugal posted on Thursday stronger-than-expected net profit and pre-tax earnings for the first nine months of 2015 and reaffirmed its 2015 outlook, implying a rise in pre-tax earnings to around 3.85 billion euros.
Although net profit at Portugal’s largest company fell by 4 percent to 736 million euros ($807 million), mainly due to a foreign exchange impact on EDP’s dollar-denominated debt, it came in above a forecast of 685 million euros in a Reuters poll of analysts.
“The evolution in the third quarter was positive in all business units and we therefore reaffirm the financial outlook and expect to comfortably meet the market consensus,” CEO Antonio Mexia told Reuters in a telephone interview.
EDP in July predicted a full-year net profit of around 950 million euros and EBITDA of 3.85 billion euros. While net profit is expected to drop 9 percent from 2014 levels due to a sharp increase in financial costs, operating earnings should rise over 5 percent according to these projections.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 10 percent in January-September to 2.99 billion euros, exceeding the Reuters poll forecast of 2.89 billion euros.
The utility’s net debt rose 2 percent between the start of the year and the end of September to 17.32 billion euros, said EDP, which in July expected to finish the year with debt below 17 billion euros.
Mexia said the debt was higher than initially expected because it included the purchase of a stake in Pecem thermal power plant in Brazil, which helped to boost EBITDA amid a severe drought in the country.
Excluding that, like-for-like debt would stand at 16.6 billion euros, 400 million less than in December, he said, while EDP’s net debt/EBITDA ratio improved to 3.8 times in September from 4 times in December.
Net operating costs fell 9 percent to 1.07 billion euros, largely thanks to a new collective labour agreement in Portugal.
Meanwhile, net financing costs jumped 38 percent to 626 million euros.
EDP’s total energy distribution rose 4 percent year-on-year, driven by higher thermal generation in Iberia and Brazil, as well as higher wind generation thanks to capacity additions in Europe and the United States. ($1 = 0.9121 euros) (Additional reporting and writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Susan Fenton)