April 21, 2020 / 8:36 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Spain's Enagas says coronavirus no threat to 2020 profits

(Adds comments from president, financial details.)

April 21 (Reuters) - Spanish gas grid operator Enagas said on Tuesday the coronavirus epidemic does not pose a risk to its 2020 profits and said it aims to keep the dividend from last year’s earnings.

“We can be cautiously optimistic,” Enagas president Antonio Llarden told analysts during a conference call on Tuesday.

The company said net profit in the first quarter rose 119 million euros ($128.94 million), up from 104 million euros in the same period a year ago.

“Out of the analysis made by the company, no evidence was found of any impact from the COVID-19 situation on the first quarter financial statements,” Enagas said in a statement.

Spain has had one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, with more than 20,000 fatalities.

Enagas had said earlier this year it expected its net profit to reach 440 million euros in 2020 up from 423 million euros last year. The company also said it planned to raise the dividend by 5%.

Shares of Enagas in morning trading were up 2.6% at 19.90 euros, whereas the IBEX 35 index was down 1.3%.

Angel Perez, an analyst with Renta 4 Banco, said even though the profits were in line with his expectations the important aspect was the maintaining of the guidance “given the context”.

The Spanish firm’s income from overseas companies in which it owns a stake were not affected by the coronavirus pandemic either. Enagas owns stakes in firms in the Mediterranean, Latin America and the United States.

The company said that demand for natural gas in Spain at the end of the first quarter fell 2.4% from the same period a year ago as a result of the lockdown from mid-March.

Enagas’s president said demand from industrial clients in Spain, which represents as much as 60% of overall demand, is affected by the lockdown. But he expected that demand decline not to be very significant as it will recover once restrictions are eased.

Current low spot prices were positive for Enagas, which is able to storage gas at “a very good price”, he said.

$1 = 0.9229 euros Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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