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Veolia says it sells US waste unit for $1.9 billion

PARIS, Jul 19 – French utility group Veolia Environnement said on Thursday that it has sold its solid waste businesses in the United States to a unit of the Highstar Capital fund for $1.9 billion (1.54 billion euros).

It is the second major divestment for Veolia as the company pursues a major debt-reduction programme, following the sale of its British water unit last month.

Still to come is a planned sale of the transport unit Veolia Transdev.

“This divestment is the second significant step in the execution of the strategic plan laid out last December,” a statement quoted Veolia chairman and chief executive Antoine Frerot as saying.

The group had 15 billion euros in debt at the end of March, and wants to cut that to below 12 billion by the end of 2013.

It plans to sell five billion euros worth of assets over a two-year period, with the British sale accounting for 1.5 billion.

With the latest sale, which is still subject to approval by US antitrust authorities, Veolia has thus reached 60 percent of its goal, it noted.

The group’s US solid waste businesses “had revenue, operating cash flow and operating income for 2011 of $818 million, $212 million and $110 million respectively,” Veolia added.

Highstar Capital, which is buying the activities through its Star Atlantic Waste Holdings subsidiary, is an investment fund specialised in energy, environement and transport infrastructures.

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