Gazprom Dividend May Be Higher Than Expected on Profit Jump

OAO Gazprom, Russia’s natural-gas exporter, may pay a record dividend of 220 billion rubles ($7.5 billion) for last year, higher than budgeted, after gains in European prices more than doubled profit.

The payout of 9.29 rubles a share is based on net income of 880 billion rubles under Russian accounting standards, which Gazprom reported late yesterday, and company guidance of 25 percent of profit for dividends, according to Bloomberg estimates. It implies a yield of about 5.1 percent.

“Excellent results, translating into higher than we expected dividends,” Lev Snykov, a partner at Greenwich Capital in Moscow, said by phone. “This is a very important baby step toward improved corporate governance.”

Gazprom shares rose as much as 2.6 percent in Moscow and traded up 2.5 percent at 181.41 rubles at 1:33 p.m., the biggest gain since Feb. 24.

State-controlled Gazprom, the world’s biggest gas producer, budgeted 199 billion rubles for dividends at its Dec. 20 board meeting, while cutting investments for 2012 by 39 percent to 777 billion rubles. The plan signals a change in policy that benefits investors, Ronald Smith, director of oil and gas research at Citigroup Inc. in Moscow, said at the time.

‘More Powerful Catalyst’

The company’s highest previous dividend was 3.85 rubles for 2010. Gazprom allocated 25 percent of profit to dividends in this year’s budget, the same as last year, Chief Financial Officer Andrey Kruglov said on Feb. 1.

Export prices rose about 27 percent last year, tracking crude oil rates with a time lag, according to a company presentation in February. Gazprom hasn’t yet reported full-year earnings to international accounting standards.

“We like the dividend, but a meaningful reduction in capital expenditures would be a much more powerful catalyst, which appears unlikely for now,” Oleg Maximov, Alex Fak and Valery Nesterov, analysts at Troika Dialog, said today.

Gazprom pencils in a “conservative” investment program initially and revises it after reviewing first-half results, Kruglov said last month. The spending plan soared 56 percent last year to 1.28 trillion rubles from the initial budget.

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