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Spain's Gas Natural Says 2006 Profit Rose 14%

Spain's Gas Natural said Monday profit rose 14% in 2006, boosted by higher energy prices.

Barcelona-based Gas Natural, Spain's largest gas distributor by market value, said net profit rose to 854.5 million euros ($1.12 billion) in the twelve months through Dec. 31, from 749.2 million euros ($984 million) in 2005. Sales rose 21% to 10.35 billion euros ($13.59 billion).

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, increased 26% to 1.91 billion euros ($2.51 billion).

Power generation, one of the company's main growth engines, jumped 86% for the year to 19,514 gigawatt-hours, driven by new plants coming on line.

Gas Natural shares opened slightly lower Monday. They are close to all-time highs, and have gained almost 50% since September 2005. In early trading, the stock fell 0.3% to 32.82 euros ($43.11).

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