* Scraps dividend for ordinary shares for second straight
* 2016 net loss 5.7 billion euros, biggest ever
* Eyes dividend of 0.50 euros/share for 2017
(Recasts throughout, adds fresh quotes, shareholders)
By Christoph Steitz
FRANKFURT, Feb 22 German utility RWE
said it planned to pay a dividend for 2017 after a two-year
break, aiming to appease shareholders after suffering an annual
net loss of 5.7 billion euros ($6 billion), the biggest in its
RWE is targeting a payout of 0.50 euros per ordinary share
for 2017, it said, adding it hoped to at least maintain that
level in subsequent years to "give shareholders a prospect for
the future dividend trend".
The group said this was possible on the back of cost cuts
and a reorganisation which included splitting off its healthy
assets into a new entity, Innogy, and listing it on the
stock exchange last year in Germany's biggest IPO since 2000.
"A clear dividend policy is a material improvement from a
situation of having no policy," Jefferies analyst Ahmed Farman
Shares in RWE, which had gained nearly 14 percent
year-to-date, were down 0.5 percent at 1420 GMT.
Leading shareholders were disappointed by the group's
decision to suspend payouts for the second consecutive year,
which RWE said had been made necessary after 4.3 billion euros
of writedowns, mostly on its ailing power plants.
RWE also pointed to an increase in provisions for the
storage of radioactive waste, money which it will transfer to a
government-controlled fund on July 1, as another burden.
"We are frustrated that we have to make another sacrifice
after having already made a contribution to the group's recovery
last year," said Ernst Gerlach, head of VkA, which represents
local municipalities in northwest Germany that together hold
about 23 percent of RWE.
Analysts had expected a dividend of 0.26 euros per ordinary
share. For preferred shares, which account for only about 6
percent of RWE's stock, the group will pay a dividend of 0.13
euros per share for 2016.
Citing efficiency programmes, RWE said it reached the upper
end of its core profit forecast ranges in 2016, with adjusted
operating profit (EBIT) coming in at 3.1 billion euros, above
Thomson Reuters consensus.
Falling wholesale power prices and a surge in renewable
capacity have squeezed the margins of fossil-fuel based power
plants that used to generate stable profits but have become a
burden in recent years.
European utilities have been scrambling to turn around their
businesses that for decades relied on making healthy profits
from big conventional plants, forcing some of them to break up
to stay alive, including RWE.
"RWE stood with its back against the wall," said Thomas
Deser, senior portfolio manager at Union Investment, which holds
more than 1 percent of RWE stock. "The listing (of Innogy) was
the only chance to get access to fresh capital."
($1 = 0.9509 euros)
(Additional reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Keith Weir)