UPDATE 2-CEZ cuts profit outlook on Albanian loss; exit likely

Thu Nov 8, 2012 7:49am EST

Related Topics

* Cuts year profit outlook to CZK 40 bln, from 41 bln

* Says exit from loss-making Albania unit likely solution

* Q3 attributable net profit CZK 6.61 bln, vs 7.99 bln poll

* Shares fall, underperforming wider market (Adds company comments and details on tenders)

By Jan Korselt

PRAGUE, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Czech electricity company CEZ trimmed its 2012 profit outlook on Thursday because of losses in an Albanian unit and said an exit from the Balkan state was the most likely solution to its problems.

The Albanian distribution unit hit majority state-owned CEZ's third-quarter earnings, released on Thursday, causing net profit to miss analysts' estimates.

CEZ, central Europe's largest listed company, said it expected 2012 net profit before minorities of 40 billion crowns ($2.0 billion). It had previously expected 41 billion, up from 40.8 billion in 2011.

CEZ shares fell 1.8 percent, deeper than a 0.8 percent drop for Prague's PX index and 0.4 percent fall in the STOXX Europe 600 utilities index.

CEZ has been fighting with Albanian authorities over power imports and prices, and said last week it could decide by the end of the year whether to pull out of the market.

"I think the mostly likely solution will be the exit of CEZ from Albania," Chief Executive Daniel Benes said.

Chief Financial Officer Martin Novak said a sale of the Albanian division could have a positive impact on CEZ's net profit because accounted losses would then be lowered.

Third-quarter net profit more than doubled to 6.61 billion crowns, but missed the average estimate of 7.99 billion in a Reuters poll. Revenue rose 5.2 percent to 49.45 billion crowns, in line with the poll.

A drop in 2012 profit would extend an earnings slide to a third year since CEZ posted record profit during the global downturn in 2009 thanks to its practice of pre-selling output.

Falling power prices in a weak European economy have since caught up with the company, hitting profit and causing it to be more conservative in hedging operations for domestic production, which still is the biggest contributor to CEZ earnings.

CEZ said it had presold 94 percent of its expected 2013 output and 48 percent for 2014. It said it sold 2013 power at an average price of 51.50 euros per megawatt hour. On Wednesday, the country's Cal '13 baseload contract dipped to 46.50 euros.

DIVESTMENT, TEMELIN PLANS GO AHEAD

CEZ is in the middle of divestment plan aimed at appeasing EU antitrust regulators, while at the same time running a multi-billion dollar tender to expand its Temelin nuclear power plant.

CEZ disqualified France's Areva from the Temelin tender last month because its bid failed to meet important criteria, leaving Toshiba's U.S. unit Westinghouse and Russia's Atomstroyexport as the only bidders.

CEZ said on Thursday it expected no delay to picking a winner by the end of 2013 as planned, despite appeals by Areva, which had said it would turn to regulatory authorities. Media have speculated appeals could delay or scupper the tender.

"I do not see any significant risk increase making us unable to pick a winner," Benes said.

Benes said CEZ would sell one or two coal-fired power plants. A decision is expected at the end of the year.

CEZ has asked the two bidders for its Pocerady and Chvaletice - privately owned companies Czech Coal and EPH - to sweeten bids, which are due on Friday, Benes said. A second round of bids for hard coal-fired Detmarovice are also due. (Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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