E.ON, the world’s largest utility by sales, gave a muted outlook for 2010 earnings, joining competitors such as France’s GDF Suez as the economic crisis hits energy prices and demand.

Adjusted earnings before interest and taxes might rise to as much as 3% in 2010 when taking into account planned asset sales, the company said today.

The Duesseldorf-based company had previously forecast that adjusted EBIT would rise 10% this year when excluding divestments as part of its strategy to shed assets such as its Italian gas grid, reports Reuters.

E.ON is divesting profitable units worth at least €10bn ($13.61bn) by the end of the year in markets and areas where it does not plan to invest and expand.

Adjusted EBIT in 2009 dropped 2% to €9.6bn, below market expectations. The average of estimates from a Reuters poll of 17 analysts was for adjusted EBIT of €9.9bn.

European utilities are facing an unprecedented decline in demand for power that is hitting earnings and share prices, reports Reuters.