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Russian stocks hit 3-month high as Gazprom surges on dividend plan; rouble dips

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A Gazprom sign is seen on the facade of a business centre in Saint Petersburg

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Shares in Russian gas giant Gazprom leapt more than 30% in early Moscow trade on Wednesday after the company posted a record first-half profit and recommended interim dividends, pushing the benchmark MOEX stock index to a three-month high.

After the market close on Tuesday, Gazprom said its board had recommended paying 51.03 roubles ($0.8505) per ordinary share in dividends on the first half of 2022, taking the overall dividend payout to around $20 billion.

"Management's decision to make Gazprom's first-ever interim dividend has caught us, and the market, by complete surprise," said BCS Global Markets in a note. "In our view, this is easily one of the more positive shareholder events in the company's history."

Gazprom dividends are a sensitive issue for the market, which was disappointed by the decision in June of its main shareholder, the Russian government, not to pay dividends on last year's results. Back then, Gazprom shares plunged nearly 30% in just one day.

By 0803 GMT, Gazprom's shares climbed 24.8% to 254.70 roubles after hitting 275.96, their strongest since June 30.

Led by the group, the dollar-denominated RTS index rose 3.3% to 1,252.3 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 4.3% higher at 2,405.9 points, earlier touching its strongest point since May 30 of 2,422.5.

The rouble fell 1% to 60.55 against the dollar and also lost 1% to trade at 60.59 against the euro.

"No substantial drivers for the rouble firming can be seen now," Promsvyazbank said in a note.

So far this year, the rouble has been the world's best-performing currency, buoyed by emergency capital controls introduced by the central bank to halt a mass sell-off after Moscow started what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine on Feb. 24. This helped to avoid economic meltdown that many had predicted.

($1 = 60.0000 roubles)

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Jan Harvey and Tomasz Janowski)