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France's Veolia keeps final quarter target after profit rise

PARIS, Nov 5 (Reuters) - French water and waste management group Veolia, which is targeting smaller rival Suez in a takeover battle, reported on Thursday higher third quarter profits, driven by a strong rebound in activity and cost savings.

Veolia confirmed its goal for the operating performance in the fourth quarter to match that of last year despite new lockdown measures in France and Europe to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The fourth quarter performance could even exceed that of the previous year, Chairman and CEO Antoine Frerot said.

“In a global economic context heavily impacted by the sanitary crisis, Veolia...has once again demonstrated its capacity to absorb shocks, to recover quickly and strongly and to pursue ambitious plans for the future,” Frerot also said.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) rose 2.5% to 893 million euros ($1.05 billion) in the third quarter while revenue was flat at 6.293 billion euros, at constant scope and exchange rates.

Veolia bought an almost 30% stake in Suez last month and said it wanted to buy the rest to create a “world super champion” in waste and water management.

However, Suez has repeatedly rejected Veolia’s advances, describing them as hostile and a risk to jobs, leading the French government to urge Veolia to commit to a negotiated deal.

On Tuesday, Veolia turned up the pressure on Suez, saying it would take its offer direct to Suez shareholders if the board continued to reject its overtures. ($1 = 0.8520 euros) (Reporting by Benjamin Mallet, Dominique Vidalon Editing by Keith Weir)