September 21, 2018 / 11:34 AM / in a month

UPDATE 2-Engie warns on profit following Belgian nuclear outages

* Engie recurring net seen at low end of forecast

* Belgian reactor outages extended over concrete problems

* Shares recover following the profit warning (Adds Engie statement on earnings)

By Bate Felix

PARIS, Sept 21 (Reuters) - French gas and power group Engie warned on Friday that the extended outages at its Belgian nuclear plants would push its 2018 net recurring income to the low end of its 2.45 billion-2.65 billion euros ($2.9 billion-$3.1 billion) forecast range.

It said the longer outages would result in a shortfall of around 250 million euros in core earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) and net recurring income.

The utility had warned about the 250 million euro impact in June, but at the end of July it confirmed its 2018 earnings outlook because it was confident that other areas of the business could compensate.

“The action plan launched last June - renegotiation of contracts, generation portfolio optimisation - combined with the very good performance in other businesses, offset to a large extent the impact from unplanned nuclear outages,” Engie said.

Engie shares, which had been down by about two percent on news of the longer outages, recovered to stand 1.2 percent higher by 1353 GMT, outperforming the broader French market index, which was up 0.8 percent.

Engie said the availability factor of its Belgian reactors is expected at 52 percent for 2018 and 74 percent for 2019. In the first half of 2018, the Benelux contribution to Engie core earnings nearly halved to 133 million euros from 242 million euros. Benelux covers Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Engie said earlier that following the discovery of problems with the concrete in some of the nuclear plants operated by its Belgian unit Electrabel, it had decided to prolong the outages at its Tihange 2 and 3 reactors.

Tihange 2 will now restart on June 1, 2019 instead of Oct. 31, 2018 while Tihange 3 will restart on March 2, 2019 instead of on Sept. 30, 2018.

Belgium’s nuclear power regulator said this week it had detected concrete degradation in two bunkers adjoining Electrabel reactor buildings.

A spokeswoman for Engie said the degradations, due to steam pressure, were found in concrete in non-nuclear buildings that house safety equipment close to the two reactors.

“We have to start repairs, but before that, we have to carry out inspections and analysis of the structures and these are still ongoing,” she said, adding that this would involve civil engineering works at several sites.

Planning for the repairs led to extending the outages, she said, adding the restart dates could change depending on how long repairs took and would be decided with Belgium’s nuclear regulator.

Fears over tight electricity supply in Belgium due to the outages during winter has boosted Belgian power contracts. The Belgian December delivery position soared to an all-time contract high of 100 euros ($118) a megawatt hour on Friday, up 22.7 percent.

Electrabel operates seven nuclear reactors in Belgium, four at Doel and three at Tihange, producing about half the country’s electricity.

$1 = 0.8499 euros Writing by Bate Felix and Geert De Clercq Editing by Edmund Blair

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