January 12, 2017 / 3:24 PM / a year ago

French construction group Vinci sees signs of growth in 2017

* Signs of growth for 2017 - CEO Huillard

* Possible boost from new French motorways deal

* Vinci shares up around 1 pct so far in 2017

By Dominique Vidalon and Gilles Guillaume

PARIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Europe’s largest construction and concessions group Vinci expects group revenue to pick up this year as its construction business recovers and its French market improves, said its chairman and chief executive.

“2017 should be a year of upturn for our global business volumes”, Xavier Huillard told a news conference on Thursday.

“Our orders are quite clearly showing recovery signs and we think that for most of our businesses, the low point in France is behind us...2017 should be a year when Vinci Construction returns to growth,” he added.

For 2016, Huillard confirmed Vinci’s earlier forecast for a slight decline in revenue due to challenging economic conditions.

To counter weakness in its domestic French construction business, Vinci has expanded into faster growing and more profitable concessions such as at foreign airports and motorways, as well as engineering deals in the energy sector.

After eight years of recession, French construction activity is, however, seen rising to 1.9 percent in volume in 2016 and should accelerate further to 3.4 percent in 2017, the French building federation (FFB) predicted in December.

Vinci also sees possible support from a 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) motorway sector stimulus package eyed by the French government, motorway operators and regional authorities.

Vinci could secure half of that package if the plan materialises, said Huillard, although he also cautioned that talks on the deal were still taking place and were “complex”.

In September, the French government started selecting projects for this new motorway package, under which operators may bear investment costs in exchange for limited toll hikes.

Huillard was speaking during a visit of Vinci’s renovation work for Paris’ historic ‘Penthemont’ Abbey. The project, worth some 50 million euros, will see the site house the new headquarters of fashion house Yves Saint Laurent as well as a luxury hotel operated by the Marriott group.

Vinci shares were flat in late session trading. The stock is up some 1 percent so far in 2017, having risen 9 percent last year.

$1 = 0.9396 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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