June 13, 2007 09:14 ET

ABERTIS INFRAESTRUCTURAS, S.A. : Abertis consolidates its international profile with Sanef and Eutelsat and reaffirms its drive for growth

BARCELONA, SPAIN--(Marketwire - June 13, 2007) - The Group has tripled its size in the past two years and virtually 50% of its income comes from abroad

- Its acquisition of sanef and the fact that abertis telecom became Eutelsat's largest shareholder marked a record year for abertis in 2006 and reconfirms the Group's growth strategy.

- Abertis remains committed to leveraging growth opportunities in the European and American markets.

- The General Shareholders' Meeting approved a gross final dividend charged against 2006 earnings of EUR 0.25 per share to be distributed on 18 June, bringing the total 2006 dividend to EUR 0.50 per share.

- The Board announces its intention to increase the 2007 dividend by 10%. This increase, coupled with the scrip issue, represents a 15% increase in shareholder remuneration.

- Shareholders approve a scrip issue consisting of one new share for every 20 old shares, a transaction worth EUR 91.2 Mn.

- The "Share Transfer Plan" is approved to encourage employees to become shareholders and a stock option programme for the management team.

- The reasons and rationale behind the project with Atlantia - formerly Autostrade - continue to hold true and both companies will analyse the scenarios for re-launching the integration project once the Italian regulatory framework is clarified.

- To enhance the integration project's potential, an agreement to continue with Schema28 is set to be reached this month (June), in order to evaluate the situation with regards to the project and to take fresh decisions at the start of next year.

Barcelona, 13 June 2007.- abertis is keeping its option open to move forward with a growth project with Italian highways company Atlantia (formerly Autostrade). In order to do so, it has been working with its Italian partners at Schema28 on a new agreement that will ensure the stability of the latter's stake in Atlantia, as well as the possibility of abertis reviewing its position and making any related decisions, should the current situation not have moved forward by early 2008. This was according to abertis' Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Isidre Fainé and Salvador Alemany, respectively, at the abertis General Shareholders' Meeting held in Barcelona. The acquisition of French highways concessionaire sanef, the incorporation of abertis telecom as the largest shareholder of Europe's leading satellite operator Eutelsat and the work underway on the corporate merger with Atlantia to form the world's first transport and communications infrastructure operator have made 2006 a record year for abertis, in which it has consolidated its international plans "where we have reached the point of no return", noted abertis Chairman Isidre Fainé.

Regarding the internationalisation process, Chief Executive Officer Salvador Alemany expressed abertis' interest in strengthening the role of Italy, which, alongside Spain, France and the United Kingdom, is a pivotal country in abertis' European plans. He added that "We are all aware of the brick wall that we hit in the (merger) process. A brick wall caused by a new regulation that has led to a unilateral change in the conditions under which Italian concessionaires operate and the economic impact of which we still cannot assess with certainty today".

According to the Chairman of abertis, the rationale and fundamental aspects behind a merger with Atlantia "still hold true. The merger was approved by the European Commission without limitation and it satisfied and can satisfy the demand for more and improved infrastructure needed in our countries as a factor of service to the public and of competition among companies". Regarding open negotiations with Schema28 shareholders to clinch new deals, Isidre Fainé explained abertis' commitment to keeping "a window of opportunity open depending on how the regulatory backdrop in Italy plays out".

Infrastructure, an attractive and competitive market

The Chief Executive Officer of abertis, Salvador Alemany, commented on the infrastructure market where abertis operates. He referred to it as a market "in expansion, not only in emerging economies such as Asia, Brazil and Russia, but also in mature economies such as the E.U., U.S. and Canada".

Salvador Alemany went on to add that "the growing appeal of these assets, coupled with the expectations generated among public administrations, particularly in the U.S., by the price that can be secured from the privatisation of highways, has created an upward spiral that funnels in a wealth of complexity, difficulty and risk to these operations".

Nevertheless, the Chief Executive Officer voiced abertis' intention to "continue stepping up to the plate in the market without abandoning the Group's industrial model and determining the financial structures that best suit, on a case-by-case basis, each project that we examine." abertis' strategic plan includes bolstering shareholder remuenation and investments in the next few years with approximately EUR 11 Bn in flows to be generated between 2007 and 2011 and the Group's gearing capacity.

Proposed 10% dividend increase

The General Shareholders' Meeting of abertis approved a gross final dividend payable against 2006 earnings of EUR 0.25 per share. The total dividend charged against 2006 earnings will be EUR 0.50 per share, thus consolidating the increase implemented over the past two years.

The maximum dividend payout totals EUR 304 Mn and represents a 5% increase on the previous year. Shareholders also approved a traditional scrip issue consisting of one new share for every 20 old shares, a transaction worth EUR 91.2 Mn.

The Chairman of abertis, Isidre Fainé, announced an increase of 10% in the dividend that will be offered with the next dividend payable against 2007. The increase, coupled with the scrip issue, represent a 15% increase in shareholder remuneration. For its seventh consecutive year, abertis closed the year in the black with an 11.11% gain, adjusted for the scrip issue. The share's overall average annual gain over the past four years stands at 26%. In May of this year, abertis set a new all-time record high with a market capitalisation close to EUR 15 Bn.

Annual accounts

The General Shareholders' Meeting approved the Company's 2006 results, with a net profit attributable to abertis of EUR 530 Mn. Comparable net profit was up 22% at EUR 572 Mn.

Operating income reached EUR 3.335 Bn, up 75% on the previous year, while EBITDA rose 74% to EUR 2.099 Bn. Meanwhile, abertis' cash flow increased 48% on 2005 to EUR 1.221 Bn.

The Chairman of abertis, Isidre Fainé, described 2006 as "truly outstanding", in which "there was sound management of day-to-day issues alongside the successful integration of new businesses, while at the same time new investment opportunities were leveraged within a well-established framework of rigour and discernment".

In turn, Chief Executive Officer of abertis Salvador Alemany emphasised that "the Group's increased cash flow allows us to undertake our investments aimed at expansion by maintaining ratings that reflect the quality of the assets incorporated into the Group, the soundness of our financial structure and the growth potential that we already have in place". On this point, Salvador Alemany noted that "our rigorous and discerning investment performance, coupled with our efficient balance sheet and debt structure is recognised by the rating agencies which assign abertis a Single A rating". abertis' debt/EBITDA ratio at the close of 2006 stood at 5.6, lower than the figure reported by most of Europe's large infrastructure operators and concessionaires.

Stock market anniversary

In his address to shareholders, abertis Chairman Isidre Fainé reminded attendees that abertis is celebrating its 20th year listed on the Exchange and said that these 20 years, first as acesa and later as abertis, "show a commitment to continuity and transparency with the financial and investment community". Since its inception as acesa in 1987 to now as abertis, the Company's share price has seen an average annual gain of 75%, adjusted for rights issues. Its annual internal rate of return (IRR) stands at 19%. Currently, abertis is one of three companies listed on the Ibex that has posted a positive change annually in the past seven years. It has been ever-present among the top 16 companies on the Ibex 35, while in the past three years, abertis has been among the top ten.

2007 Objectives

The Chief Executive Officer of abertis, Salvador Alemany, pointed out that the strong figures posted by abertis at year-end 2006 consolidate the Company's position as a leader among private infrastructure operators, figures "we will see reconfirmed in 2007". On this point, Salvador Alemany noted the objectives set for this year "point to an increase in revenue of more than 7%, an improvement in the EBITDA margin of over 10% and net profit growth of more than 15%".

2007 will feature, as in the previous year, international expansion and solid, uniform growth across the Group's five business lines. Salvador Alemany summarised the Company's performance in 2007 in each of its business areas, paying particular attention to traffic figures: at the close of 1Q07, traffic on abertis' highways network in Spain was up 7% on the previous year, while the network overall - including sanef and GCO - was up 5.8%. The sanef network saw a 4.9% increase in traffic in 1Q07.

Regarding the highway sector, the Chief Executive Officer of abertis mentioned the AP-7 highway-widening project, in which acesa will invest 500 million, and that "started this year off in a crucial stage for bids and the commencement of work". The widening, which will run through late 2008 and 2009 "responds to a need for urgent action to be taken regarding a strategic corridor that connects us with Europe and the southern region of the peninsula".

abertis' growth strategy in the telecommunications sector this year is also marked by internationalisation, which prompted the acquisition of a 32% stake in Eutelsat, completed in January 2007, and the Company's commitment to complementing the strong presence of abertis telecom in wireless and terrestrial signal transmission with a satellite transmission network. At the General Shareholders' Meeting, the positive impact that the DTT rollout, increased coverage and the contracts signed with national radio broadcasters had on the Company was also noted. As for the airport sector, Salvador Alemany stated that "growth forecasts in international air traffic and our experience in the past two years following the acquisition of TBI encourage us to move forward and focus on opportunities that emerge in different countries, particularly those involving processes underway or in different stages of development in Portugal, France, the United Kingdom and the United States". International expansion is also a feature of the growth strategy for the car park and logistics infrastructure business areas. Growth in car parks pivots on the research and analysis of new opportunities that emerge in the Spanish and international markets while in the area of logistics, a process of international expansion continues. The process began last year following the announcement of a project in Portugal and has continued into early 2007 with an agreement to develop a logistics park in the metropolitan region of Santiago, Chile.

Corporate Social Responsibility

The Chairman of abertis, Isidre Fainé, unveiled the Company's main lines of action in the area of Social Responsibility over the past year to the General Shareholders' Meeting. Isidre Fainé pointed out that "the principles that inspire our actions are rooted in our belief in the social benefit and service to the public provided by our business as promoters and managers of infrastructure that is key to the competitiveness of the economy and society". According to the abertis Chairman, "consistent proactiveness, creativity and innovation" make the difference in ensuring a company and its conduct are responsible. He also highlighted dialogue and collaboration, trust in people, and credibility and efficiency as values that guide the way in which abertis interacts with its environment.

Furthermore, Isidre Fainé explained that abertis' commitment to the community and the fabric of society is implemented on various platforms, such as the abertis foundation, where more than a third of the Company's investment in the community is concentrated. The foundation promotes research on the effect of infrastructure, the environment, demographics, and the economy - in cooperation with universities, business schools and think tanks - and manages a broad-based road safety programme.

Isidre Fainé also pointed out, as an example of a contribution made by the Group to increase cultural and artistic heritage, abertis' agreement with the Spanish Ministries of Culture and Economy and Finance to acquire a Picasso oil painting that was deposited with the Museu d'Art Nacional de Catalunya (MNAC) last February.

abertis has seen its strategies recognised with its inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which comprises companies which show best practices in the area of sustainability and social responsibility. The Company also dedicated EUR 9.3 Mn in 2006 to community outreach and social fabric programmes.


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