By Sarah Morland
PARIS (Reuters) - French infrastructure group Vinci posted third-quarter sales on Tuesday that surpassed pre-pandemic levels, helped by a ramp-up in public works and more traffic on its motorways.
Europe's biggest construction and concessions firm posted quarterly sales up 7.8% year-on-year to 13.24 billion euros ($15.39 billion), in line with analysts' forecasts and exceeding the 13.13 billion euros it generated in 2019.
Vinci has benefited from several large construction works and a rise in motorway traffic as COVID-19 travel curbs eased across Europe, but labour shortages and high raw material costs have forced it to consider delaying some projects.
However, Vinci's finance chief Christian Labeyrie said that though some projects, in agreement with customers, could be pushed from this year into 2022, this would not impact the firm's net profits.
"We are big enough," he told analysts in a call, speaking about the group's core construction business. "We aren't looking for more volume, but for better quality orders to improve our profit margin."
Despite the introduction of a European Union-wide COVID vaccine certificate, business at Vinci's smaller airports arm remained sluggish, with passengers nearly 60% below 2019 levels.
This kept revenues from Vinci's airports division, which includes London's Gatwick Airport, down almost 55% from 2019.
The group confirmed its previous guidance that 2021 earnings would not recover to pre-pandemic levels, but they should rise sharply compared to 2020.
It said its energy infrastructure and construction businesses should see full-year growth compared to 2019, while revenues in its motorway division should approach pre-pandemic levels.
The company has not given specific financial forecasts.
(Reporting by Sarah Morland in Paris; Editing by Edmund Blair and Giles Elgood)