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UPDATE 4-Cheniere tops Q2 profit estimates, accelerates LNG plant expansion

(Adds additional information on sixth train at Sabine Pass plant)

Aug 6 (Reuters) - Cheniere Energy Inc on Thursday posted a second-quarter profit that beat analysts estimates on higher margins, in part on fees collected from customers cancelling deliveries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The largest U.S. exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) pulled ahead about $450 million of third-quarter revenues into the period due to cancellations, executives said in a conference call, boosting results. Cheniere kept its full-year adjusted earnings outlook at about $4 billion, despite reduced demand.

“To me, that would be a massive success,” Jack Fusco, Cheniere’s chief executive, said of the earnings. “It has been an extremely stressful and a tough year.”

Buyers have canceled dozens of LNG cargoes this year as gas prices in Europe and Asia plunged and a warm winter left gas storage mostly full.

Cheniere said it had about 50 cargo cancellations, including 30 from buyers under long-term contracts. It collects fees for processing when cargoes are canceled.

Demand is expected to recover, especially in Asia, Fusco said. Cheniere is moving ahead development its sixth train at Sabine Pass in Louisiana to the second half of 2022, from the first half of 2023. Train 3 in Corpus Christi, Texas, will be substantially complete in the first half of 2021, it said.

As rivals delay or cancel liquefaction plants, Cheniere should benefit from fewer competitors and emerge “on much stronger footing in the marketplace than we were pre-COVID,” Fusco said.

The company reconfirmed its full-year 2020 guidance of $3.8 billion to $4.1 billion in consolidated adjusted EBITDA and $1 billion to $1.3 billion in distributable cash flow.

Shares were up about 2% at $53.24. The stock is down about 13% year-to-date.

Cheniere reported a per-share profit of 78 cents in the quarter. Analysts had forecast 58 cents, according to IBES Refinitiv.

Cheniere said it sent 78 LNG cargoes during the second quarter and 206 in the first six months. (Reporting by Sabrina Valle; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Leslie Adler)

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