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UPDATE 2-Spain's Naturgy books net loss in 2020 on lower energy demand

(Adds details on asset write-downs, investment plans)

MADRID, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Spanish utility Naturgy reported a net loss in 2020 after 2.84 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in writedowns on assets mainly in its home market and in Argentina as the COVID-19 pandemic slashed demand for gas and electricity.

It made a net loss of 347 million euros versus a net profit of 1.4 billion in 2019. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation fell to 3.45 billion euros from a revised 4.25 billion.

Naturgy wrote down 1.15 billion euros on its combined-cycle gas power plants in Spain as regulatory changes made these assets less profitable than renewables.

And in Argentina, it wrote down almost all the value of its assets, saying that high inflation is denting profits as local regulators have prevented utilities from raising prices for a year-and-a-half.

Chief Executive Francisco Reynes said he was seeking to divest from countries with “soft” currencies like Argentina to raise exposure to “hard” currency countries.

Naturgy plans to invest about 1 billion euros a year on renewables mainly in Spain, the United States and Australia, he said on a call with analysts on Thursday.

Last month, Naturgy bought a solar energy developer in the United States and won a contract to supply renewable-generated electricity to the Spanish market.

IFM Global Infrastructure Fund, an investment fund run by Australian pension funds, last week offered 5 billion euros to buy a 22.7% stake in Naturgy.

Formerly known as Gas Natural, Naturgy rebranded in 2018, reshuffled management and set about cutting costs, moving out of a number of countries and expanding its presence in the fast-growing renewable energy generation sector.

Its shares slipped 0.2% in afternoon trading, while the IBEX blue chip index was 0.9% up.

The company’s results are “negative for the stock at first glance as figures came below consensus estimates”, brokerage Capital Markets said in a note to investors.

Sales fell 26% in 2020 from the previous year to 15.35 billion euros, it said. ($1 = 0.8347 euros) (Reporting by Inti Landauro and Tomas Cobos; editing by Ingrid Melander and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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