Gazprom reported net profit of RUB1.06 trillion during the nine months of the year, an increase of 73% y/y, according to the new IFRS statement published on Friday. Sales were up by 27% y/y to RUB5.9 trillion, while operating profit almost doubled in y/y terms to RUB1.38 trillion. Gas sales increased by 5.8% during the period to 375.5bcm with exports to Europe rising by 6.7% y/y to 185.4bcm. Prices had a key effect on improved profitability as the average price of exports to Europe increased by 30.5% in RUB terms. The results are in line with expectations, but still support hopes for higher dividend payments. According to earlier reports the management of Gazprom mulls raising the dividends to RUB10-11 per share from this year’s level of RUB8.04. Still, this would be about half of what the FinMin expects in budget 2019 based on the 50% dividend payout rule. So far Gazprom has managed to get an exception from this rule due to the importance of its investment program and this practice is likely to continue. This year the FinMin collected the dividend shortfall through an ad hoc increase of the natural resource tax on gas.