PARIS (AP) ¿ European energy giant GDF Suez SA on Wednesday reported a 6.3 percent drop in net profit in the first half as the economic downturn crimped energy demand.

The Paris-based gas and electric utility said its net income totaled euro3.26 billion in the six months through June, down from euro3.48 billion in the same period a year ago.

Revenues rose 2.3 percent to euro42.2 billion, according to a statement released Wednesday night.

The company said it expects the third quarter to be down from a year earlier, with "more noteworthy growth in activity" in the fourth quarter.

The company said it is on track to fulfill its full-year and medium-term targets of a higher Ebitda, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, in 2009 than in 2008. Ebitda rose 2.2 percent in the first half to euro7.9 billion, according to the statement.

CEO Gerard Mestrallet said the company is "in an ideal position to take rapidly advantage of recovery in its major markets."

Company shares fell 1.68 percent in Wednesday trading, closing at euro29.25 before the statement was released.
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