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Trams firm suffers 30% fall in profits

ENGINEERING and construction giant Bilfinger has seen its net profits fall 30% to €275 million (£235m).

However, the German firm, the main contractor in the long-delayed Edinburgh trams project, said prospects for 2013 looked brighter.

Stripping out results from businesses it no longer owns – including Valemus Australia – earnings after tax rose 25% from €222m to €275m.

In 2012 it saw sales rise 2% to €8.65 billion thanks to strong performance uplifts in the industrial and power divisions.

Bilfinger's order backlog dipped slightly from €7.8bn to €7.4bn across the year.

It said it is budgeting for a greater volume of work in the coming financial year and is cutting back on lower margin construction projects.

The company's cash position improved from €847m to €1.1bn and employee numbers surged 13% from 59,210 to 66,826.

Investment in property, plant and equipment ticked up from €114m to €126m.

The results were in line with market expectations.

It added: "Bilfinger developed well last year in an economically difficult environment.

"Output volume and earnings increased once again, despite divestments and the planned volume reduction in the construction business segment.

"With the course that was set in the year 2012, Bilfinger is well on its way to achieving its medium-term financial targets."

Chief executive Roland Koch has said Bilfinger has an €850m warchest for acquisitions.

It has bought up Indian firm Neo Structo, Tebodin from the Netherlands, US-based Westcon and Johnson Screen plus German companies Envi Con and Mauell in the past year.

For 2012 it plans to recommend a dividend of €3 a share, up from €2.50 a share in 2011.

Edinburgh's trams are expected to start running in 2014 after numerous delays.

The cost of the project spiralled from £545m to £776m while work was halted for a long period due to disputes between project manager TIE and Bilfinger.

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