Vinci Chief Sees Signs of Improvement in French Construction

  • Private sector is starting to invest in new buildings: CEO
  • Vinci will bid for stakes in Nice, Lyon regional airports

Vinci SA Chief Executive Officer Xavier Huillard said Europe’s biggest builder is seeing the first signs of improvement in the French construction industry, which suffered a slowdown due to dwindling state investment in infrastructure projects.

“We have the feeling, even if the signs are weak, that we are starting to see positive signs in construction,” Huillard said Tuesday at a press conference in Paris. “France wasn’t thriving in 2015.”

Roadworks in Vinci’s home market will fall at a slower pace in 2016 that last year while the private sector is starting to invest in new buildings and energy efficiency at manufacturing sites, he said.

Vinci has been expanding abroad in faster-growing markets such as energy-engineering and airport-management operations to reduce its dependence on France, where construction and roadworks slowed. The Rueil-Malmaison, France-base company reported in October third-quarter sales rose 2.8 percent and forecast revenue would broadly be stable for the full year, snapping five consecutive declines.

One French project that has hit hurdles is the Vinci-led high-speed train link between Paris and the southwestern city of Bordeaux, with banks threatening to pull financing due to a dispute about how intensely the infrastructure will be used. The transport ministry has said 16.5 trains will travel the line daily while the national railway wants fewer rotations, according to Huillard.

“A few more trains” are needed for the project to work, he said, adding that the line could be ready before mid-2017 if banks continue to fund the project.

Vinci plans to bid to buy a stake in the Nice and Lyon airports in France as part of a government privatization program, the CEO said.

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