Atlas Arteria (ASX: ALX), one of few remaining ASX-listed infrastructure plays, was up around 1% heading into lunch after posting statutory net profit after tax, in-line with broker expectations, of $117.1m for the six months ended 30 June 2022, up 184% from $41.2m in 2021.
Underpinning the result was a strong operating environment in France plus the progressive removal of government imposed covid restrictions across all jurisdictions.
Weighted average traffic across all jurisdictions was up 22.7% on the first half of 2021 and just 1.3% below the first half of 2019.
To reflect a sustained recovery in traffic, Atlas declared a record first-half distribution guidance of 20 cents per share (CPS), up from 15.5 cents a year earlier.
The group also expects to pay a second half dividend of 20¢ per share, compared with 20.5¢ a year earlier.
In summary, a record full-year distribution of 40 CPS is up 11% on FY21 and puts Atlas shares on a prospective forward dividend yield of 5%.
Total toll revenues up 20.5% compared with a year earlier, and up 2.9% compared with the same period in 2019
Total traffic on Atlas Arteria’s toll roads in France, the US and Germany up 23% compared with a year earlier but is still down 1.3% on pre-pandemic levels
Proportional earnings (EBITDA) were up 21% to $542m, lower than analysts expected
Warnow Tunnel, a 2.1-kilometre toll road in Germany, increased traffic by 10.1% vs H1 2021
Dulles Greenway Traffic increased by 12.3% vs H1 2021
APRR earnings (EBITDA) up 23.0% to EUR1,032m
Management also reassured shareholders – as is the case with most infrastructure plays – that they stand to benefit from a high inflationary environment, through better financial performance.
The group expects to raise toll fares on Warnow in line with consumer price indices.
Meantime, the group believes tolls on its most lucrative asset, France’s Autoroutes Paris-Rhin-Rhone (APRR) can increase at 70% of the rate of inflation.
Graeme Bevans CEO also reminded investors that the group is well positioned to support organic and inorganic growth opportunities.
“We will continue to seek opportunities where we can see a clear ability for Atlas Arteria to add value to businesses and deliver appropriate returns for our securityholders.”
The group has not received any proposal from IFM to acquire all of the securities in Atlas.
However, IFM owns around 19% of Atlas through a combination of directly-owned shares and derivatives, which is just below the 20% threshold at which it would be required by takeover rules to launch a formal offer for the whole company.
IFM has previously flagged interest in making a full takeover bid for the company and has already received approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to potentially buy all of the group.
Meantime, Atlas has confirmed that IFM has asked to nominate a director to the toll road group’s board.'
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