March 10, 2020 / 7:37 AM / a month ago

Uniper raises payouts as group transformation takes hold

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Uniper (UN01.DE) on Tuesday exceeded dividend forecasts for 2019 and this year, increasing its appeal to investors as top shareholder Fortum (FORTUM.HE) moves closer to taking control of the German energy group.

The logo of German energy utility company Uniper SE is pictured in the company's headquarters in Duesseldorf, Germany, March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

Uniper, whose operations span coal, gas and hydro plants, said payouts would rise by 28% in 2019 and 18.8% in 2020, adding that it aimed for climate-neutral power production in Europe by 2035.

“Between now and 2040, global energy demand will increase significantly. At the same time, carbon emissions must be permanently reduced and the energy supply become climate-friendlier,” CEO Andreas Schierenbeck said.

“Uniper’s unique portfolio enables it to be part of the solution to this global challenge.”

The group, which said it would shut down most of its German coal-fired plants by 2025, will now recommend a dividend of 1.15 euros per share for 2019, beating the 1.11 euro Refinitiv estimate.

It had previously aimed for 1.07 euros per share.

For 2020, the group targets a dividend of 1.37 euros per share, also higher than the 1.35 euro Refinitiv forecast.

Along with other CO2-emitters, Uniper has mapped out plans for how to pare back emission-intensive power production and replace it with more climate friendly gas-fired power plants and other sources, including hydro-electric plants.

That brings it more in line with Finland’s Fortum (FORTUM.HE), which has secured a 49.99% holding and last week received the green light from Russian authorities to increase the stake to at least 70.5%, which still needs to be put into law to become effective.

Uniper also expects earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of between 750 million euros and 1 billion euros this year, compared with a Refinitiv forecast of 954 million and EBIT of 863 million in 2019.

Reporting by Christoph Steitz, Editing by Thomas Escritt and Louise Heavens

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