Suez Environnement Raises Stake in Rome Utility to 12.5%

Suez Environnement, Europe’s second-biggest water company, acquired a 3.95 percent stake in the Rome utility Acea SpA from GDF Suez SA to raise its shareholding to 12.5 percent.

Suez Environnement bought GDF Suez’s entire holding of 8.4 million shares at market value, the Paris-based company said today in a statement. The purchase of the stake, valued at about 75 million euros ($103 million), confirms Suez Environnement’s “commitment to investing in Italy,” it said.

The French utility has expanded in southern Europe and Spain, where it controls Aguas de Barcelona, or Agbar. It plans a “progressive development” in Italy through Acea, Chairman Gerard Mestrallet has said. The purchase is part of Suez Environnement’s strategy to build a “third pillar” in the European water industry after France and Spain, it said today.

Acea and Suez Environnement are partners in water and sanitation ventures in Tuscany via works in Florence, Pisa, Arezzo, Siena and Grosseto that generate 400 million euros in annual sales. Acea, which manages water and power for Rome and elsewhere in central Italy, has 3.6 billion euros in revenue.

Suez Environnement, due to announce full-year results tomorrow, may report net income of 343.5 million euros compared with 251 million euros in 2012, according to eight analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg News.

Suez, 36 percent owned by GDF Suez, has targeted cost cuts of 180 million euros for 2013 and a dividend equal to or more than 2012’s 65 euro cents a share. The utility has also forecast free cash flow of at least 1 billion euros.