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UPDATE 2-Cheniere Energy boosts buyback, earnings forecast

·2 min read

(Recasts first sentence with increased earnings forecast and dividends, adds CEO comments, company details)

Sept 12 (Reuters) - The largest U.S. liquefied natural gas exporter, Cheniere Energy Inc, on Monday raised its earnings outlook and laid out plans to pay higher dividends and share repurchases while adding to its production facilities.

The LNG company's profit is up on soaring prices and LNG demand as Europe tries to end its reliance on Russian gas and find alternative suppliers over the country's invasion of Ukraine.

Cheniere shares rose 3%, or $5, to $165.73 in after-market trading.

Europe offers a new growth area for the company after Asia, said Chief Executive Jack Fusco on a conference call with investors where it laid out plans to double its processing capacity over time.

"We've had good conversations with Europe and felt warmly received by the European Union for everything we're doing," he said.

"We have significant organic growth left in this business," said Fusco, adding the company can finance two planned expansion projects while boosting shareholder payouts.

Its annual dividend will rise 20% to $1.58 per share from the $1.32 initiated last year, executives said, adding they expect to have more than $20 billion of available cash for payouts and investments through 2026.

Fusco also lifted the company's full-year 2022 distributable cash flow forecast to between $8.1 billion and $8.6 billion, from $6.9 billion to $7.4 billion.

Its share buyback program has been increased by $4 billion for an additional three years, as it expects to earn more cash from rising liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices.

Cheniere raised its forecast for 2022 pretax earnings for a third time and now expects EBITDA to be between $11 billion and $11.5 billion, compared with its prior estimate of $9.8 billion to $10.3 billion.

The largest U.S. LNG exporter added that the increase is primarily due to cargoes being pulled forward into 2022 from 2023 and because of sustained higher margins this year. (Reporting by Ananya Mariam Rajesh in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston Editing by Maju Samuel and Matthew Lewis)