* Analysts say results remain weak, no sign of improvement
* Sacyr posts 30 pct increase in core profits (Adds Sacyr earnings)
By Julien Toyer and Andrés González
MADRID, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Results at Sacyr and OHL exposed contrasting trends among Spanish builders on Thursday as the former published a sharp increase in 2014 core profits while the latter disappointed analysts and investors with a weak set of earnings.
Spanish builders have expanded abroad, focused on services, sold non-core assets and laid off staff to combat a slump in construction activity at home that has left them with high debts and squeezed margins.
While they hope a planned increase in infrastructure spending in Spain will fuel recovery, the full-year results show they are not all at the same stage of the process.
OHL’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) dropped 11 percent in 2014 to 1.08 billion euros ($1.22 billion), while revenues increased by 6 percent.
The company’s net debt fell to 5.6 billion euros at end-December from 6.5 billion in the previous quarter after it sold assets, including part of its Mexican arm and a 5 percent stake in Spanish toll road operator Abertis.
Meanwhile, Sacyr posted a 30 percent rise in EBITDA to 382 million euros, with sales growth of 8.5 percent to 2.9 billion euros.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Manuel Manrique said in a conference call with analysts that the firm would deliver double digit growth in sales, EBITDA and profit this year. “In the case of EBITDA the first digit will not be a one,” he said.
Debt, a problem for the company in the past, has become more manageable since Sacyr earlier this year refinanced a 2.3 billion euro syndicated loan linked to its purchase of a 9 percent stake in Repsol.
Boosted by the debt refinancing and improved business outlook, shares in Sacyr have risen 41 percent so far this year, the top gainer in Spain’s blue-chip index Ibex.
They were up 3.36 percent on Thursday, while shares in OHL lost 7.69 percent.
Analysts and investors said they remain unconvinced by the OHL’s strategy and performance.
“OHL has released a weak set of results once again,” Mirabaud analyst Javier Mielgo said in a note to clients.
“Concerns regarding the quality of the big international construction contracts and the evident difficulties generating cash flow are fully reflected in this release and we do not perceive any sign of improvement.”
OHL is set to announce a new strategic plan to 2020 next week. ($1 = 0.8801 euros) (Reporting by Julien Toyer and Robert Hetz; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Heinrich)