Hochtief announces 15% profit hike after last year’s Abertis deal

German contractor Hochtief has announced an operational profit of €521m for 2018, 15% higher than the previous year, thanks in part to its purchase of part of Abertis Infraestructuras, the Spanish company that specialises in toll roads.

The Essen-based company, which is 66.5% owned by Spain’s ACS, also announced an 11% rise in turnover to €23.9bn.

Marcelino Fernández Verdes, the company’s chief executive, commented: "2018 was another very successful year for Hochtief.

"For the sixth consecutive year we managed to increase our cash-backed operational net profit and we expect this positive trend to continue. Our focus on developed markets and a broad variety of business models gives us a robust, well-balanced profile in the infrastructure business that is paying off in a sustainable manner."

Hochtief and ACS had been in a bidding war with Italy’s motorway operator Atlantia for control of Abertis, which was the world’s largest toll road operator. The three bidders eventually agreed to share the prize.

According to the agreement, Hochtief purchased Abertis for $22.4bn, then sold a 50% holding to Atlantia and 30% to ACS, retaining the remaining 20% for itself.

The company commented that it "remained focused on risk management and generating cash-backed profits". Net cash from operating activities was at a sustained high level of €1.4bn in 2018, allowing the company to end the year with a net cash position of €1.6bn, almost €300m more than the end of 2017.

Hochtief also set up Nexplore in 2018 in collaboration with universities and IT companies. This is a group-wide "digital innovation hub" aims to promote the digitalisation of the company. Fernández Verdes said the company would "harness the products and processes developed by Nexplore to continuously increase efficiency and execution quality as well as to optimize project management. Our clients, project partners and employees will benefit from these innovations".

Image: Abertis managed 1,500km of Spain’s toll roads, about 60% of the total (Abertis)

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