DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Germany’s biggest utility, E.ON (EONGn.DE), expects renewable energy and foreign expansion to lift core profit this year and next after the country’s decision to phase out nuclear power accounted for most of its first-ever full-year net loss.
Chief Executive Johannes Teyssen said on Wednesday that E.ON was pleased with growth at its renewable unit - spanning wind, solar and hydro power - where 2011 core profit rose 21 percent to 1.5 billion euros.
The net loss for the year of 2.22 billion euros ($2.91 billion), compared with a year-earlier profit of 5.85 billion, was due to a 1.5 billion euro hit from the early shutdown of nuclear power plants in Germany plus hundreds of millions of euros in losses in the gas business, E.ON said on Wednesday.
“Even if E.ON was adversely affected by a number of key issues such as gas prices, the nuclear phase-out or depreciations, we believe that the company has a good starting base for a positive development,” DZ Bank analyst Hasim Senguel said, keeping a “buy” rating on the stock.
To make up for the loss of income from nuclear power generation, E.ON has been aggressively expanding its renewable energy business as well as operations in emerging markets.
The company agreed to buy a 10 percent stake in Brazil’s MPX Energia MPXE3.SA in January, teaming up with Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista to build the largest privately held network of power plants in Brazil.
CEO Teyssen said E.ON was in talks with potential partners in India and Turkey.
E.ON, which aims to generate a quarter of core profit outside Europe by 2015 at the earliest, has long been saying it is studying opportunities in Brazil, India and Turkey, where energy demand is growing more rapidly than in its European core markets.
Its shares were up 6.2 percent at 18.14 euros by 1019 GMT, the stock's biggest intraday gain in six months and outperforming a 1.1 percent higher blue-chip DAX index .GDAXI.
Traders attributed the steep gain to news that E.ON had also made headway with the renegotiation of pricey gas contracts that weighed down earnings in 2011.
Teyssen said E.ON has adjusted contracts with Norway’s Statoil (STL.OL) to a level reflecting current market conditions. E.ON has been bound to high prices in its long-term contracts with suppliers, while spot prices for gas have fallen because of oversupply.
Analysts at WestLB said there was no longer a risk that a further rise in negative gas to oil spreads could torpedo E.ON’s outlook, adding the only major player with whom E.ON still needs to renegotiate terms is Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM).
E.ON board member Jorgen Kildahl told reporters that the arbitration process with Gazprom was still ongoing.
E.ON said it expected earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 9.6-10.2 billion euros this year, up from 9.29 billion in 2011 but below consensus of 10.5 billion in a Reuters poll.
It also confirmed its 2013 outlook for a further increase in EBITDA to 11.6-12.3 billion, above consensus of 11.4 billion.
Despite the full-year net loss, E.ON plans to pay a 2011 dividend of one euro per share, down by a third from last year. It said it would pay a dividend of 1.10 euros for 2012, and at least 1.10 euros for 2013.
($1 = 0.7628 euro)
Writing by Christoph Steitz and Maria Sheahan; Editing by Dan Lalor and Will Waterman