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Gas Natural Fourth-Quarter Net Rises 55% on International Demand

Gas Natural SDG SA, Spain’s best-performing utility stock this year, increased profit 55 percent in the fourth quarter on higher natural gas sales abroad.

Net income rose to 326 million euros ($436 million) from 211 million euros a year earlier. That beat the average 323 million-euro average estimate from analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, rose 13 percent 1.25 billion euros.

Spain’s largest gas supplier reduced net debt to 15.9 billion euros by the end of 2012, just enough to attain company Chairman Salvador Gabarro’s goal to reduce borrowings to between 15 billion euros and 16 billion euros. The company, currently rated two levels above investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, hopes to carry out its divestment plan through 2014 and reach an A credit rating in the medium term, according to a company’s 2010-2014 strategic plan.

Gas Natural, already the biggest distributor of natural gas in Latin America, said gas and electricity sales in the region grew by 22 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively.

Shares of Gas Natural rose by 1.3 percent to 15.39 euros in Madrid as of 11:52 a.m. local time, bringing their gain to 13.3 percent in 2013.

Domestic investment fell by 11 percent in the past year due to a “stagnation in the regulated business in Spain” as consequence of regulatory cuts in Spanish gas and electricity distribution and transportation, according to the company filing. The measures are meant to eliminate the power tariff deficit in 2013, or the gap between costs and revenue in the power system.

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