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What’s going on?

Russian natural gas giant Gazprom canceled its dividend entirely on Thursday.

What does this mean?

Gazprom announced a dynamic new dividend policy back in 2019, which involved paying shareholders as much as half of its total profit by 2022. You had investors at “dividend”: they dramatically pushed up Gazprom’s stock and made it the most valuable company in Russia. Gazprom was well on track to make good on its promise too, with the company’s board members recommending a record payout of around $23 billion this year.

But investors’ giddy hopes were dashed on Thursday, when the company said it would be paying… nothing. Nada. Squat. It said it would rather focus on investing in Russia’s gas infrastructure ahead of the winter, and that it needed the money to cover its tax bill. Hell hath no fury like an investor scorned: Gazprom’s stock plunged nearly 30%.

Why should I care?

Zooming in: Russia’s okay with it.

The Russian government – which owns around 50% of Gazprom – will miss out on its share of the payout too, but it’s just smug that the decision will keep cash out of the hands of other shareholders. And the country will still get its hands on some of those profits in any case, with Russian lawmakers having just passed a bill to increase Gazprom’s tax bill by $8 billion this year. The G7 might’ve seen this coming: it recently agreed to explore capping the price of gas to keep the country from profiting even more from the war.

The bigger picture: Uniper hemorrhages money.

Gazprom has unsurprisingly been slashing its supplies to Europe, which has forced Uniper – Germany’s biggest buyer of Russian gas – to buy gas in the open market for an estimated $30 million a day. That’s partly why the company has just issued a profit warning, with things now so bad that the firm’s in talks to be bailed out by the government.

Originally Posted June 30, 2022 – Gaslighting

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