RWE Faces Heated AGM Over Coal Exit, Green Future

Vera Eckert
Friday, June 26, 2020

RWE sought on Friday to convince shareholders of its plans to move away from fossil fuels as environmentalists protested in its coal regions and as Germany prepares to pass a coal exit law from which it stands to gain 2.6 billion euros ($2.92 billion).

Shareholders said Germany's biggest electricity producer will need good arguments to assure markets that its move away from fossil fuels is credible, and that its international offshore wind activities will take off.

"RWE needs a new equity story. Capital markets do not know what RWE stands for," said Thomas Deser, senior portfolio manager at Union Investment.

He criticized what he called an unattractive dividend policy, over-exposure to political processes and a complicated wholesale trading operation at the incumbent utility.

He said these factors required patience from shareholders while the build-up of renewables would take years of waiting for future profitability.

Chief Executive Rolf Martin Schmitz, in a speech to shareholders released ahead of the annual general meeting, said: "We are leaving fossil fuels behind in a consistent and responsible fashion. We have a clear focus on renewable energies."

RWE has set aside 5 billion euros to invest in expanding renewable energy up to 2022, of which 1 billion will be dedicated to projects inside Germany, he said.

The 2020 dividend is due to rise to 85 cents per share after 80 cents in 2019 and 70 cents in 2018.

RWE, Europe's biggest CO2 polluter, aims to be carbon-neutral by 2040, expanding offshore wind by 4 gigawatts (GW) to reach 13 GW 2022.

Shareholder Deka Investment said that a more ambitious departure from coal was desirable.

"RWE will have to make a greater effort to turn the traffic light in the transformation to climate neutrality to green," said Vanessa Golz, the company's sustainability expert. ($1 = 0.8918 euros) 

(Reporting by Vera Eckert and Tom Kaeckenhoff Editing by Michelle Martin)

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