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Macquarie Airports profits down

SYDNEY, Australia --Australia's Macquarie Airports on Tuesday reported its net profit for 2006 fell 10.4 percent to 600.5 million Australian dollars (US$476.4 million; euro362.01 million).

But the Sydney-based international airport investment fund said its underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization -- a more closely watched figure -- increased by 8.7 percent to A$853.6 million (US$677.26 million; euro514.64 million).

Revenue also rose 2.2 percent to A$1.48 billion (US$1.17 billion; euro890 million) for the calendar year ending Dec. 31, 2006, and the group declared a final distribution of A$0.12 (US$0.09; euro.07) per share.

The company said the outlook for 2007 was positive, maintaining a long-term traffic annual growth forecast of 4 percent to 5 percent.

"We have delivered on the key performance targets we laid out for 2006," said Macquarie Airport's Chief Executive Kerrie Mather in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange. "We continue to seek acquisitions which meet our strict investment criteria and will explore the option of returning capital to shareholders."

Macquarie Airports said it has exercised its option to buy a stake in Sydney airport from Spain's Grupo Ferrovial S.A. It expects to pay A$663 million (US$526 million; euro399.7 million) for a further 15.1 percent stake, taking its stake in Australia's largest airport to around 70.9 percent.