CEZ says to redirect 50 bln Czech koruna into gas


Czech power firm CEZ will redirect 50 billion koruna ($3.07 billion) in investments from coal plant upgrades to building new natural gas-fired power stations, business director Alan Svoboda said on Wednesday. CEZ stays on top in CEE - Euromoney Magazine (UK) says.

Svoboda told reporters CEZ would shift part of its planned 150 billion koruna investment for coal plant upgrades into gas due to European Union plans to auction carbon dioxide emission rights from 2013 and the rising cost of coal plant modernization. He said this did not mean CEZ was planning to shut down the power plants, but would delay the upgrades.

Czech energy group CEZ claims the top position in the Euromoney CEE companies poll. This is its third year on top and not likely to be its last. “CEZ is very open to investors,” says Peter Caputa, research analyst at BH Securities. “They are willing to do meetings whenever – they are easily the best in terms of [making] contact and communication in the Czech Republic and across the region.” Perhaps more impressive is CEZ’s rate of growth. In the past 12 months the Czech company, in which the government has a 67% stake, continued to grow its market share across the region, reaching, for example, 54% of the Turkish market by the end of 2007.

The largest central European company, with a market capitalization of $45 billion, grew nearly 50% in 2007, with the electricity producer netting 42.76 billion koruna ($2.75 billion) of profits. Last month CEZ announced plans to double dividend payments, the group is also about to finalize its 10% share buyback program. These decisions were in line with expectations as strong profits and cashflow, and a lack of acquisition opportunities, had left the company overcapitalized. More than 21 billion koruna is earmarked for dividends, of which 15 billion koruna will go to the state. The company also started to sell a 7% stake of CEZ in the capital markets in August 2007. So far, 2.35% has been sold. But, as CEZ strengthens its financial structure and ebitda ratios, the management is focused on the next stage in its expansion plans. (Reuters, Euromoney)



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