Cheniere raises 2023 core earnings forecast after strong quarter

(Reuters) - Top U.S. LNG exporter Cheniere Energy Inc raised its 2023 core earnings forecast on Tuesday after reporting a quarterly profit compared with a year-ago loss, sending its shares up about 1.8% in premarket trading.

The United States has emerged as the world's largest LNG exporter after Western sanctions on major supplier Russia left Europe scrambling to find alternate sources of the commodity.

Cheniere raised its consolidated adjusted core earnings forecast for 2023 to $8.2 B - $8.7 B from $8 B - $8.5 B. Analysts on average had expected $8.39 billion, according to Refinitiv.

"LNG supply will remain tight in the winter of 2023-2024, particularly if the weather is colder than this past winter and Chinese LNG demand increases as forecasted," said Ryan Keeney, an analyst at Third Bridge.

Cheniere also expects higher distributable cash flow in 2023.

"We set a new quarterly LNG production record in the first quarter," said Chief Executive Officer Jack Fusco.

The Houston-based energy firm said it delivered 619 trillion British thermal units (tBtu) of LNG in the quarter ended March 31, compared with 592 tBtu a year earlier.

According to Swiss bank UBS, more than 70% of U.S. LNG cargoes went to Europe in the first quarter.

Because of the hedging Cheniere did at the end of last year and earlier this year, its first-quarter earnings were insulated from the impact of falling gas prices, said Robert Mosca, an analyst at Mizuho Securities, ahead of the earnings.

Cheniere posted net income of $5.4 B, or $22.10 per share, compared with average analysts' estimate of $5.52 per share, according to Refinitiv.

Cheniere is the biggest U.S. buyer of natural gas and the biggest U.S. exporter of LNG with the capacity to produce about 45 mpta of LNG at its two facilities: Corpus Christi in Texas and Sabine in Louisiana.

The company is also building new liquefaction trains at Corpus that will add over 10-MTPA of capacity between 2025-2027, and is developing expansions that could add another 20 MTPA at Sabine and 3 MTPA at Corpus.

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