* Confirms EBITDA guidance despite tariff cap
* Nuclear output up 0.8 pct as planned outages shortened
* Expects 850 mln euros from 2012-2013 catch-up payments
* Expects Hinkley Point decision from outgoing Commission
(Adds CEO comments on tariffs, Hinkley Point)
By Geert De Clercq
PARIS, July 31 French state-controlled utility
EDF maintained its 2014 profit guidance on Thursday
despite a government cap on power tariffs that cut 5 billion
euros off its share value in June.
The company said first-half net profit rose 8.3 percent to
3.1 billion euros ($4.15 billion) as shorter maintenance outages
for its nuclear plants boosted its power output.
But sales were down 3.8 percent to 36.1 billion euros,
mainly due to a mild winter, which reduced power demand for
heating. EDF shares were up about 4 percent at midday.
Chief executive Henri Proglio told reporters he expected an
increase in regulated power prices later this year, but played
down its impact on this year's earnings.
"I cannot speculate on what the government will decide in
October. There will be an increase. By how much, we will see,"
On June 19, Energy Minister Segolene Royal announced she
would block a 5 percent increase in EDF's regulated power
tariffs that had been scheduled to take effect in August, which
sent EDF stock 8 percent lower in record trading volumes.
The government later said the increase would be moved to the
autumn and would be less than 5 percent, but has not specified
the size of the increase. EDF stock has not recovered.
In early July, Royal reiterated that electricity tariffs
will not rise this year. The new French tariff policy is part of
a Europe-wide trend to cap energy prices as governments try to
bolster consumer spending in the face of stubbornly high
Proglio said a five percent increase would have boosted EDF
earnings by 500 million euros in the second half of this year,
but that even without it, EDF would meet its targets.
EDF said in a statement it still expected organic growth of
at least 3 percent in its core earnings before interest, tax,
depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), excluding its Italian
EDF's first-half EBITDA rose 3.1 percent to 9.6 billion
euros and 5.6 percent to 9.2 billion euros, excluding Edison.
EDF also said that a State Council ruling cancelling
government-ordered price caps for the 2012-2013 period would
generate some 850 million euros in extra revenue via catch-up
payments for its customers.
Royal has said these could total 27 euros per household and
would be spread out over 18 months.
EDF said nuclear output reached 208.8 terawatt/hours, up 1.6
TWh or 0.8 percent, following a plan to control the duration of
planned outages. In the first half of the year, the average
duration of outages was half as long as a year earlier.
For 2014, EDF reiterated its nuclear output target of
between 410 and 415 TWh.
Asked whether EDF and the government - which controls 84.5
percent of its capital - were working on a succession plan for
November, when his tenure as CEO ends, Proglio said that he
hopes to continue in his post but that it would be up to the
government to decide.
Proglio also said he expected the outgoing European
Commission to make a decision about EDF's 19 billion euro
project to build two nuclear reactors in Hinkley Point, Britain,
before a new commission is appointed this autumn.
"I expect it is most likely that the commission will make a
decision before it leaves," he said, adding that he was
confident of getting the EU's green light.
EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia said in February that
Britain must clarify why the project needs state aid and has
sent the UK government a letter criticising the project's
planned power price guarantees and loan support.
EDF's share price fall of the past weeks has made it
Europe's second-biggest utility again, after gas and power group
GDF Suez, with market capitalisation of 60 and 64.4
billion euros respectively. GDF stock is up 13 percent in the
year to date, while EDF is down 5 percent.
But EDF, which produces power mainly with nuclear reactors
and is less exposed to volatile hydrocarbon fuel prices than GDF
Suez, is still better valued than its peer. It has a price/book
ratio of 1.3 compared to 0.98 for GDF, Thomson Reuters Eikon
(1 US dollar = 0.7465 euro)
(Editing by Catherine Evans)