NewsGazprom halts dividends after first loss in decades. Shares drop

Gazprom halts dividends after first loss in decades. Shares drop

The Kremlin's decision hits Gazprom's stock prices
The Kremlin's decision hits Gazprom's stock prices
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10:42 AM EDT, May 21, 2024

The Russian government issued a decree on Monday instructing state-owned gas giant Gazprom to halt the dividend payout for 2023. The official reason cited is the company's first loss in decades. The company's shares reacted with sharp declines on the Moscow stock exchange.

Gazprom is experiencing substantial declines on the Moscow stock exchange due to the Russian authorities' decision to ban the fuel giant from paying out dividends. The decision follows the company’s first annual net loss since 1999, amounting to $7 billion, caused by the collapse of gas exports to Europe following Russia's aggression against Ukraine and the escalation of the political conflict.

Gazprom received a blow from the Kremlin

Gazprom's problems, which until recently was the pride of the Russian economy and a source of substantial profits due to the export of raw materials to Europe, have intensified in recent months. The company found itself in a difficult position after Russia's attack on Ukraine, and the sanctions imposed on Moscow forced it to break gas supply contracts with clients on the European continent.

According to Reuters, the Russian government publicly released an order late Monday evening prohibiting Gazprom from paying dividends to shareholders for the previous year. This follows the company’s publication of its first annual negative financial result in 24 years, with a net loss of approximately $7 billion due to a drastic drop in gas sales to Europe.

Shares down

The market reacted unequivocally negatively to the Russian authorities' decision. Gazprom's shares fell by more than 4.3 percent on Tuesday on the Moscow stock exchange, reaching their lowest rating since October 10 last year. This is another blow to the stock price, which had already been significantly impacted by mysterious explosions that damaged three of the four Nord Stream gas pipelines connecting Russia with Germany on the Baltic Sea floor.

The official reason for the cessation of the dividend payout by the state-controlled company is its enormous investment needs. Gazprom will have to allocate significant financial resources to reorient its gas sales routes after losing markets in Europe.

Europe is no longer a lifeline for results

The main cause of the Russian giant's financial difficulties is the collapse of "blue fuel" exports to Europe, which until 2022 was the key recipient of raw materials from Russia, generating the lion's share of the company's revenues. The Kremlin's aggression against Ukraine and the growing political tensions between Moscow and the West led to a dramatic reduction in the volumes of gas sent to the European continent.

Gazprom's data and calculations by the Reuters agency indicate that in 2022, Russia delivered about 2,250 billion cubic feet of natural gas to Europe via various routes. Last year, this amount dropped by over half - 55.6 percent year on year, to just 1,000 billion cubic feet. This is a stark contrast compared to the record year of 2018, when the Russian company exported an impressive 7,100 billion cubic feet of raw material to the EU and other European countries, including Turkey.

The real problems are yet to come

The prospect of no dividends for the previous year is a serious blow to the company itself, its minority shareholders, and the entire Moscow stock exchange. Gazprom losing its status as a "cash cow" and a reliable source of cash is another symptom of the deep problems that the entire Russian economy must face in light of increasing international isolation. There is also no certainty that dividend payouts in future years will not be halted.

Data confirming the fuel giant's troubles became known at the beginning of May. It was revealed that Gazprom had a loss of 629 billion rubles in 2023. This was the company's first loss since 1999.

Putin turns the economy into war mode

According to expert Elina Ribakova, the shift in the profile of the Russian economy towards meeting the needs of the war machine is no longer merely cyclical but has become a structural change.

The expert quoted by the Financial Times cites various data illustrating the progressing militarization of the Russian economy. She indicates that Russia's direct military expenditures have more than tripled to over $100 billion (6 percent of GDP) compared to the period before the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The number of military-industrial enterprises has increased from just under 2,000 to 6,000, and employment in this sector has risen by at least half a million jobs.

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