French utility GDF Suez SA on Thursday cut a core earnings target after sharply lower gas prices kept 2009 net profit flat.
The company said that excluding contributions by companies sold as part of its 2008 merger and the proceeds of those sales, net profit rose just 0.3 percent in 2009 to 4.5 billion euros ($6.15 billion), in line with analysts' expectations.
The company did not give a comparable figure to the overall 6.5 billion euro net profit earned in 2008, when earnings were boosted by one-off gains from asset sales.
GDF Suez, formed from the merger of Franco-Belgian electricity producer Suez with France's state-controlled gas supplier Gaz de France, met last year's target of higher earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization. EBITDA rose 1 percent last year to 14 billion euros.
The company said it is now targeting EBITDA in 2011 that is at least 15 percent higher than 2009, or 16.1 billion euros. The previous target was 17 billion euros to 18 billion euros.
GDF Suez, of which the French state still owns 35.9 percent, said the recovery in demand is slower than it expected.
Revenue in 2009 fell 3.8 percent to 79.9 billion euros, lower than analyst forecasts.
The company said it is in a "particularly good position" to benefit from improving economic conditions and commodity prices.
"In 2010, the Group will continue to invest in each of the businesses and geographic areas where it is present and to create jobs," said CEO Gerard Mestrallet in statement.
"This strategy, which we have been pursuing since the merger, will enable the Group to take full advantage of the economic recovery wherever it occurs."
GDF Suez said late Wednesday that a consortium it leads has been appointed preferred bidder for Saudi Arabia's $2 billion Ryadh PP11 power plant.
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