PARIS (AP) ¿ European energy giant GDF Suez SA said Monday a colder winter and higher prices helped lift its sales by 11.7 percent in the first quarter to euro25.6 billion ($34 billion). The Paris-based gas and electric utility said its core domestic energy division saw sales jump 21.5 percent in the period, thanks to price hikes in regulated tariffs as well as greater demand due to this year's harsh winter. The company, owned 36 percent by the French government, said the performance put it on track to achieve targeted growth in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) this year" despite an environment of depressed economic conditions and energy prices." Last year GDF Suez reported EBITDA of euro13.9 billion, and the company has pledged to raise this to between euro17 billion and euro18 billion by 2011. GDF Suez was created last July through the merger of Franco-Belgian electricity producer Suez with France's state-controlled gas supplier Gaz de France. The company is one of Europe's largest utilities, and is a world leader in liquefied natural gas, a fast growing segment of the natural gas industry. GdF Suez also has ambitions to expand its presence in nuclear power. Already the operator of nuclear reactors in Belgium, GdF Suez has been chosen as a minority partner in the second evolutionary power reactor, or EPR, that France plans to build in Normandy.