SINGAPORE - China's ENN Energy Holdings reported retail gas sales in the first half of 2022 grew 5.1% from a year earlier, less than a quarter of the pace in the corresponding period of 2021 as COVID measures and an economic downturn stifled demand.

Although anticipating a rebound in gas demand in the second half of the year as the Chinese economy recovers, the firm on Friday revised down its annual gas sales growth target to 5-8%from 12-15% previously.

The natural gas distributor had recorded 22.3% year-on-year growth during the first half of 2021 and a 15% increase for the full year versus 2020.

"Market demand has been weakened due to factors such as the continual rise in natural gas prices, the widespread COVID-19 epidemic in China and an economic downturn," the company said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

ENN's retail gas sales totalled about 13.1 billion cubic meters between January and June.

As one of the country's few privately-controlled gas firms operating large liquefied natural gas (LNG) import facilities, ENN has in recent years been expanding into a global trader of the super-chilled fuel.

ENN, via parent company ENN Natural Gas Co Ltd, lined up annual supply of 4.8 million tonnes of LNG under term contracts in the first half of the year, against a backdrop of a volatile market and record prices, taking its total term supplies to 7.14 million tonnes annually, the firm said.

Its suppliers include majors like TotalEnergies and Chevron, U.S. exporters Cheniere Energy and Energy Transfer, as well as Russia's Novatek, it added.

Its main receiving terminal, in the eastern port city Zhoushan, is able to handle 7.5 million tonnes of LNG a year.

Earlier on Friday, ENN Energy reported net earnings of 3.1 billion yuan ($455.31 million)for the first half, versus 3.77 billion a year earlier.

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)