July 27, 2018 / 6:58 AM / in 3 months

UPDATE 2-France's Engie confirms 2018 guidance despite Belgian nuclear outages

* Engie energy trading gains offset nuclear losses

* Core EBITDA earnings in line with expectations

* Engie says monitoring EDP (Adds detail on strategy day, EDP, TAG, share price)

PARIS, July 27 (Reuters) - Shares in Engie rose more than 2 percent on Friday after the French utility confirmed its 2018 earnings outlook despite a series of outages at its Belgian nuclear plants, while posting virtually flat first-half revenue.

Engie had warned in mid-June that unscheduled outages at the nuclear reactors would have an impact of 250 million euros on its 2018 earnings, though it said it was confident that other areas of the business could compensate.

Engie shares were 2.5 percent higher in morning trade, making it one of the top gainers on the CAC 40 index, which was up 0.15 percent.

Engie’s core earnings rose 1.3 percent to 5.1 billion euros ($5.9 billion) in the first half, in line with forecasts but slower than the 3 percent increase seen in the first quarter, partly due to strong hydro power in France.

The Benelux contribution to core earnings nearly halved to 133 million euros from 242 million, but that was more than offset by Engie’s global energy trading division, which swung from a 120 million euro loss in the first half of 2017 into a 124 million euro profit.

Asked whether Engie was interested in Portuguese EDPR’s U.S. wind portfolio, Engie CEO Isabelle Kocher told analysts that it was actively monitoring the situation.

Sources told Reuters last month that Chinese utility China Three Gorges (CTG), which is bidding to take control of Portuguese utility EDP, has held talks with European utilities to gauge interest in buying the U.S assets of EDP’s renewables unit EDPR, as it fears the U.S. will object to Chinese ownership.

Kocher also said Engie hopes to restart talks about possibly buying Brazilian gas pipeline company Transportadora Associada de Gas (TAG) by end September or early October.

Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras) said earlier this month it was suspending major asset sales after a Supreme Court justice ruled that Congress must approve any privatizations.

TAG would fit within Kocher’s strategy of focusing Engie more on regulated infrastructure businesses.

Engie has just completed a 2016-18 transformation plan that included the sale of 16.2 billion euros worth of mainly fossil fuel-related assets and nearly 15 billion euros of investments in renewable energy, grids and energy services.

Kocher said that Engie had moved back a planned strategy day to end February 2019 from December 2018 as the company wants to base its new strategy on 2018 closing figures.

Engie’s first-half revenue edged up 0.1 percent to 30.2 billion euros ($35.2 billion). Current operating income rose 1.4 percent to 3.1 billion euros but net income fell 25 percent to 0.9 billion euros, partly because of a 200 million euro loss on the upstream and midstream LNG business that Engie has agreed to sell to Total.

Engie confirmed its 2018 earnings guidance for core earnings of 9.3-9.7 billion euros and a 0.75 euro per share dividend.

The French state owns 24.1 percent of Engie, but has said it might sell part of its stake in coming months.

$1 = 0.8587 euros Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Benjamin Mallet; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Jan Harvey

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