Alstom reports strong year, weak orders

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French engineering group Alstom reported strong annual profits and sales figures on Tuesday but also registered a drop in orders because of the global economic crisis.

The group, which builds power stations and French TGV high-speed trains, said that net profit rose by 10.0 percent to 1.22 billion euros (1.6 billion dollars), although this was slightly below the figure of 1.24 billion euros expected by analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires.

Sales rose by 5.0 percent to what the company described as a "record level" of 19.7 billion euros.

But the rate at which new orders were booked was hard hit by the economic downturn.

From April 1 of 2009 to March 31 of this year, orders taken totalled 14.9 billion euros, a fall of 39 percent from the figure for the previous financial year.

At the end of March, the total value of orders taken was 42.6 billion euros, marking a fall of 7.0 percent. The order book was worth the equivalent of 26 months of sales.

Chief executive Patrick Kron said that after a low point reached in the first six months, order-taking in the second half of the year had improved slightly.

But it was still difficult to see when the expected recovery would occur, he said.

Consequently sales in the current financial year would probably be lower than the figure for the last year.

Alstom said that after buying the power transmission business of French nuclear power group Areva, Alstom wanted to make targeted takeovers.

During the last year, Alstom reduced its workforce by 5,000 people as part of accelerated efforts to cut costs in response to the economic slowdown.

The group now employed 76,500 people from 81,500 12 months ago.

The board recommended a dividend of 1.24 euros, an increase of 11.0 percent from the payment last year.

© 2010 AFP

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