Engie net loss narrows but operating profits continue to fall

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Engie, the world’s biggest non state-owned electricity group by sales, said it had booked €3.8bn worth of impairments in 2016 due to low power prices as the group reported a fall in full-year operating profit.

The Paris-based company, which was formerly known as GDF Suez, has been hit hard by falling electricity prices over the past few years, triggered by an oversupply of fossil fuels and government subsidies for renewable energy.

Under chief executive Isabelle Kocher, who took over a year ago, the company has promised to sell as much as €15bn of assets in a bid to reshape the business and reduce its exposure to unregulated gas and power markets in the US and Europe.

On Thursday, the company said the weak power market continued to weigh on results on 2016. Revenues fell 4.6 per cent to €66.6bn while operating profits fell 5.2 per cent to €10.7bn. The full-year net loss narrowed to €400m, however, from a loss of €4.6bn in 2015.

The results were also in line with expectations. “Our results for 2016 are robust, in line with guidance,” said Ms Kocher. “For 2017, we’ll see the return of organic growth thanks to the good momentum of our strategic businesses.”

The company announced it was planning to accelerate cost cutting measures, raising its 2016-2018 savings target by 20 percent to €1.2bn. Ms Kocher said that the “lean” performance plan was “progressing faster than expected”.

Ms Kocher added that the company was “ahead of schedule” on the group’s transformation plan, having already signed more than 50 per cent of the planned disposals and identified 75 per cent of the investments to shift the footing of the company.

Ms Kocher plans to use much of cash from the €15bn asset sales to expand in the areas where prices are regulated. She plans to invest in renewable energy, gas networks, gas storage and LNG terminals as well as in energy services such as heating and cooling networks.

The company said it would pay a dividend of one euro per share, in line with expectations, and said that on the fiscal years for 2017 and 2018 it planned to pay €0.7 per share. This had already been announced last year.

Engie said the impairments for 2016 included €1.9bn related to power production in Europe, €1bn for the revision of its nuclear decommissioning provisions in Belgium and €600m related to the market environment on some of its global businesses.

Brussels last year opened an investigation into Engie’s tax arrangements in Luxembourg. The commission alleges that the company treated the same loans as debt and as equity in order to minimise tax payments.

In January, Brussels deepened its inquiry, saying Luxembourg failed to provide “any possible justification” for a scheme that broke European law. Engie faces the prospect of having to pay about €300m in back taxes to Luxembourg if the findings are upheld.

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