Cheniere Says Too Early to Gauge Impact of Coronavirus on LNG Market

(Reuters) — Cheniere Energy Inc, the biggest U.S. liquefied natural gas company, said on Tuesday it does not expect “significant or prolonged curtailment of U.S. LNG production” as low global gas prices cause some customers to cancel cargoes. 

It was too early to gauge the potential impact of the outbreak of a new coronavirus on the near-term LNG market, the company said. Gas prices in Europe and Asia remain near the all-time lows of recent weeks as the coronavirus cut gas demand in China, epicenter of the outbreak.

“While we acknowledge that some LNG on the margin may not be lifted ... this year, we do not view significant or prolonged curtailment of U.S. LNG production as a likely scenario,” Cheniere’s Chief Commercial Officer Anatol Feygin said on an analyst call following the release of the company’s fourth quarter earnings.

Cheniere CEO Jack Fusco said that two customers canceled LNG cargoes for the month of April - one from Sabine Pass in Louisiana and one from Corpus Christi in Texas - out of 40 cargoes it is forecast to produce.

Cheniere’s marketing arm could lift the canceled cargoes, the executives said.

The company would only take the cargoes if it could market them profitably, Feygin said.

Last week, sources told Reuters that Spain’s Naturgy Energy Group SA canceled one cargo in April amid a slump in global gas prices.

“While it’s currently too early to gauge the potential impact of the coronavirus on the near-term market balance, decreased short-term LNG demand in China is putting additional pressure on the market,” Fusco said.

Even before the virus spread, global gas prices had been falling for months on mild winter weather in Europe and Asia, record gas stockpiles in Europe and reduced economic growth because of the U.S.-China trade war.

Cheniere said its full year 2020 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization are tracking to the lower end of its guidance range of $3.8-$4.1 billion due to the drop in LNG prices.

In addition, the company confirmed it expects to complete the third liquefaction train at Corpus in the first half of 2021 and the 6th train at Sabine in the first half of 2023.

The company also said it is targeting a 2020 final investment decision on the Corpus Stage 3 expansion.

Cheniere shares fell as much as 3.5% to a near two-year low of $50.11.

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