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VIENNA, July 25 (Reuters) - Austria’s largest energy company Verbund plans to raise the payout for its shareholders by up to a third despite an expected earnings decline, it said on Tuesday.
The 51 percent state-owned group plans to pay between 40 and 45 percent of this year’s net profit, which it expects to reach 300 million euros ($351 million), to its shareholders.
That translates into 0.35 to 0.39 euros per share after 0.29 euros per share for 2016.
Verbund was very popular with investors in past years because of its generous dividend policy, but it faced harsh criticism after it slashed its payout ratio to 31 percent last year from 45 percent for 2015 to strengthen its financial position.
The hydropower producer has warned that its core earnings will fall around 20 percent this year as lower energy prices, a decline in grid revenues and investments to modernise its infrastructure take their toll.
Verbund plans to publish its second-quarter results on Thursday. ($1 = 0.8552 euros) (Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Adrian Croft)