3 Min Read
* CEO says overall climate more favourable for stake sale
* H1 EBITDA up 1.8 pct
* Expects annual revenue growth at ski resorts above 3.5 pct (Recasts with CEO comments on stake sale at news conference)
By Dominique Vidalon, Camille Raynaud and Wout Vergauwen
May 23 (Reuters) - France's Compagnie des Alpes said more favorable economic and political conditions made it hopeful of reaching a deal this year to sell a stake in the company to Chinese conglomerate Fosun and other potential investors.
Compagnie des Alpes (CDA) operates 11 ski resorts in France and 13 leisure parks in Europe, including Parc Asterix and the Grevin waxworks museum in Paris. It wants to expand abroad, notably in high-growth markets such as China, and has been looking for partners to help this part of its strategy.
"We need partners. The deal has not been done yet. I am convinced it will happen. I think it's time today to focus on the interest of the company," said Chairman and Chief Executive Dominique Marcel, after the group reported a slight increase in first-half core earnings.
"I really hope a deal will be sealed this year as we have a more favourable climate," he added.
Asked if he was referring to the election of French President Emmanuel Macron as one of the elements behind the better business climate, Marcel said: "Yes, among other things."
Previously Marcel had said that Fosun and other investors could take a stake of "between 8 and 10 percent, possibly a little more". He did not give new details on Tuesday.
A source close to the matter told Reuters that talks had been put on hold ahead of the presidential election in France and that things were now likely to start moving again.
Commenting on Fosun, which already controls French holiday group Club Med, Marcel said: "We need groups who can bring us their expertise...notably in entertainment and Fosun controls The Cirque du Soleil circus."
State-owned bank Caisse des Depots (CDC), which is the main shareholder of Compagnie des Alpes with a 40 percent stake, has said it would stay as the reference shareholder in the company and was "the guarantee" that would keep CDA anchored in France.
Last year, French politicians and local officials in the French Alps had voiced concerns about French regions losing control of ski resorts to foreign companies.
Compagnie des Alpes' first-half earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 1.8 percent to 167.9 million euros ($188.6 million).
The group also expected annual revenue growth at its ski resorts business to exceed 3.5 percent, and confirmed its guidance for its EBITDA margin to be slightly above last year.
$1 = 0.8902 euros Reporting by Camille Raynaud and Wout Vergauwen; Editing by Edmund Blair and Sudip Kar-Gupta