PARIS - Third quarter sales at French public works group Eiffage slipped 1.1 percent as construction of new offices in France remained weak.
Analysts at Societe Generale and Deutsche Bank had been expecting a small increase for the quarter. The decline was less than the 2.1 percent year-on-year drop of the second quarter.
Eiffage, the builder of the Sydney Opera House that was involved with the Channel Tunnel, said construction division sales were down 13 percent due to the property crisis.
Business for Eiffage Immobilier remains steady in residential property... but is very weak in the business property market, the group said.
Construction revenues from Poland and the Czech Republic were particularly lower than at the same period last year.
The group, whose clients remain hit by the credit crunch and a lacklustre construction sector, added its backlog was down 3.1 percent to 9.6 billion euros by Oct. 1, compared with 10.3 billion euros by July 1.
Its public work division, down 5.1 percent for the third quarter, suffered from the difficult economic context, especially in new road construction, the group said.
Spanish rival Abertis on Thursday reported a forecast-beating 4 percent growth in nine-month profits, thanks to strength at its telecommunications arm, but the flow of traffic at its motorways and airports continued to fall. Vinci, the world's largest construction group, is due to report third-quarter sales on Nov. 12.
Eiffage said earlier this week it was buying the Heitkamp Rail unit of Dutch group Heijmans, which had sales of some 90 million euros in 2008.
Shares in Eiffage, which is 19.9 percent owned by French state fund Fonds Strategique d'Investissement, closed down 1.13 percent at 38.06 euros, giving it a market value of some 3.46 billion euros.
The stock has gained 1.9 percent so far this year, underperforming both Vinci, up 29 percent, and the DJ Stoxx European Construction and Material index .SXOP, which is now 27.1 percent higher than at the beginning of the year.
(Editing by Marcel Michelson)