PARIS, March 8 (Reuters) - French gas and power group Engie surprised the market with a higher-than-expected dividend, proposing to pay 0.75 euros per share on 2018 earnings, up from a 0.70 euros dividend for its 2017 results.
The dividends of utilities are often closely watched by investors, who typically favour utility stocks in times of market uncertainty as such companies offer steady dividend payouts and relatively high cash flows.
The consensus forecasts had been for an unchanged 2018 dividend at Engie.
"We have completed our three-year transformation plan faster than expected, therefore we will boost our dividend," Engie chief executive Isabelle Kocher said on an earnings call.
Engie's 2017 revenue came in at 65 billion euros ($80.6 billion), up 0.3 percent on a reported basis and up 1.7 percent on an organic basis, although the figure nevertheless stood the lowest level in a decade.
Its core 2017 earnings of 9.3 billion euros were down 1.8 percent on a reported basis but up 5.3 percent on an organic basis and in line with the consensus forecast for 9.37 billion euros. The company also swung into a net profit of 1.4 billion euros, reversing a 400 million euro 2016 loss.
($1 = 0.8066 euros) (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)