February 27, 2020 / 6:04 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-GTT warns of possible coronavirus delays, beats full-year guidance

(Adds CEO comment, details on orders and dividend payout)

Feb 27 (Reuters) - French naval engineering company Gaztransport & Technigaz (GTT) said it could possibly see delays to vessel construction and revenue collection due to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, the group, which generated 85% of its revenues in South Korea and 10% in China last year, said it had not observed any delay in vessel construction schedules to date.

“The risks linked to the impact of the epidemic on the world economy, and more particularly on the demand for LNG, remain difficult to assess today,” GTT said.

The Paris-based company, which designs tanks for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, posted a 2019 core profit of 174.3 million euros ($189.4 million), marginally beating its own guidance, while revenue at 288.2 million euros also slightly exceeded its expectations.

GTT, which is about 40% owned by French utility group Engie , had forecast full-year core profit of between 160 million and 170 million euros on revenues of between 260 million and 280 million euros.

“Our 2019 results were better than expected thanks to a particularly high flow of orders over the past two years,” said chairman and CEO Philippe Berterottiere.

The order book stood at 152 units at the end of December, GTT said, including those from its division that helps equip ships to use LNG as a fuel. It added that it had received a record 57 LNG carrier orders last year.

In January, an International Maritime Organisation regulation came into force, imposing a new cap on the sulphur content in fuel oil and pushing ship owners to less damaging alternatives. Although still a fossil fuel, LNG emits 10 to 20 percent less CO2 than even low-sulphur fuel oil. (reut.rs/2Pt5vba)

Analysts from Exane BNP Paribas wrote in October that they expected GTT to benefit in the short-term from the uptake in LNG as marine fuel but see orders dropping after 2020.

GTT said it expected revenue of between 375 million and 405 million euros in its next fiscal year, and a core profit of between 235 million euros and 255 million euros.

The company proposed a dividend of 3.25 euros per share, up from the 3.12 euros proposed a year ago, and vowed to maintain a payout ratio of at least 80% of its consolidated net income over 2020 and 2021.

$1 = 0.9201 euros Reporting by Sarah Morland in Gdansk; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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