April 28, 2016 / 7:32 AM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Profits rise at Spain's Abertis as road traffic picks up

* Higher traffic in Spain, France, Chile boosts core profit

* Earnings also helped by recent acquisitions, investments

* Abertis targets more growth from purchases (Adds details, background)

By Julien Toyer

MADRID, April 28 (Reuters) - Spanish toll roads operator Abertis posted a 6 percent rise in first-quarter core profit on Thursday, boosted by solid traffic growth in Spain, France and Chile which offset lower activity and negative currency effects in Brazil.

In Europe Abertis is benefiting from increased commercial and private traffic as the economic recovery takes hold, especially in its domestic market.

Traffic on Spanish motorways was up 11.4 percent in the first three months of 2016, also helped by Easter falling in March this year, while it rose by 6.1 percent in Chile and 3.7 percent in France.

In Brazil, where it operates more than 3,000 kilometres of roads, traffic was down 2.3 percent and Abertis said it had fallen 3 percent to mid-April with commercial traffic dropping by 6.8 percent amid an economic slowdown.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) for the first three months of the year came in at 714 million euros ($810 million), above analysts’ expectations of 703 million euros.

Net profit was up 205 percent at 385 million euros, boosted by acquisitions in Chile and Spain. Excluding this effect, net profit would have risen 9 percent in the quarter.

Shares in Abertis were down 0.755 percent at 14.46 euros at 0710 GMT when the Madrid market’s Ibex index was down 1.53 percent.

Abertis is aiming for more growth from acquisitions as it plans to reinvest the cash from the flotation last year of telecom masts business Cellnex.

Having already extended the life of its concessions in Puerto Rico and bought out minority stakes in some of its overseas units, it is now in talks to buy a majority stake in two Italian motorways.

It has also announced investments worth 2 billion euros over the next two years, when it has committed to return a higher proportion of its profits to shareholders. ($1 = 0.8812 euros) (Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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