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Eni stepping up spinoff plans to fund energy transition

Published 10/29/2021, 08:00 AM
Updated 10/29/2021, 11:20 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Eni's logo is seen in front of its headquarters in San Donato Milanese, near Milan, Italy, April 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

By Stephen Jewkes

MILAN (Reuters) -Italian energy group Eni is stepping up its plans to spin off parts of its business to raise the cash needed to help fund its transition away from oil and reward shareholders.

Under Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi Eni has launched one of the industry's most ambitious clean-up strategies, pledging carbon neutrality by 2050 and shifting into clean energy as it phases out oil production as of 2025.

"We are deeply reshaping our company structure to enhance value creation... and flexibility," Chief Financial Officer Francesco Gattei told analysts on Friday.

The strategy is in contrast to Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSa), which said on Thursday its businesses operated better together than apart in response to an activist fund's call for a break up.

Earlier this month Eni said it intended to list part of its new retail and renewable business, and also said it could seek a separate market listing of its Norwegian joint venture Vaar Energi with shareholder HitecVision.

It is also planning to set up a combined upstream business company in Angola with BP (NYSE:BP) which Gattei said would be completed before the end of the year.

"Next year with the different IPOs and business combination there will be a quite material contribution of cash," Gattei told analysts on a conference call following its third-quarter results.

He said the cash would be used to cut debt, improve dividend policy, and fund the group's transformation.

In a statement on results Descalzi said the creation of dedicated business vehicles would be accelerated to focus on growth and extract value from the group's portfolio.

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Several European energy companies, including Spain's Repsol (OTC:REPYY), are looking to divest all or part of their renewables business to raise money to fund the energy transition.

Oil and gas majors are coming under increasing pressure from governments and climate-conscious investors to shift into renewable energy, even amid calls to still meet current high levels of fossil fuel demand.

In the third quarter Eni beat expectations as its profits jumped back to pre-COVID levels, boosted by higher gas prices that could give an additional lift to earnings in coming months.

Adjusted net profit stood at 1.43 billion euros compared with a loss of 153 million euros a year earlier, beating a 1.08 billion euro consensus forecast.

"We believe the better than expected results and improved outlook have positive implications for estimates and the stock," Milan-based broker Equita said.

At 1419 GMT Eni shares were up 2.35% while the European oil and gas index was down 0.3%.

($1 = 0.8572 euros)

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