Veolia Environment plans transport business sale in a bid to cut its debt

VEOLIA Environment, pressured by a slumping share price and two straight profit warnings, aims to sell its transport business as part of a plan to shed €5bn (£4.3bn) of assets in the next two years.

The world’s biggest listed water group also plans to slash its dividend by 42 per cent and aims to cut expenses by €120m in 2013 as part of a bid to boost operating income and reduce debt.

Yesterday’s announcements came at a much-anticipated investor day after Veolia unveiled only part of its strategy change in August – including plans to exit about half of the 70 countries where it has businesses.

Investors, who have dumped Veolia shares this year, causing them to lose more than half their value, reacted cautiously. The stock gave up earlier gains of as much as 4.5 per cent to close down 4.5 per cent at €9.09.

“They’ve come out with an extremely aggressive objective which is not going to be easy to realise in this economic context,” UBS analyst Per Lekander said. “It is the right thing to do though but they are not out of the woods yet.”