Weak Q3 and mixed 2022 guidance overshadow Saipem's new plan

Looks at strengthening in high-speed rail sector

  
A staff member is seen on the Saipem 10000 deepwater drillship in Genoa's harbour, Italy, November 19, 2015. Picture taken November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo - RTS84TK

A staff member is seen on the Saipem 10000 deepwater drillship in Genoa's harbour, Italy, November 19, 2015. Picture taken November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo - RTS84TK

REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo - RTS84TK

MILAN- Weak quarterly results and mixed 2022 guidance overshadowed a new business plan from SaipemSPMI.MI on Thursday, sending shares in the Italian energy services group down more than 8%.

In the first strategy plan under CEO Francesco Caio, Saipem said it expected to start growing again next year as its offshore business and drilling bounce back from the pandemic, with core earnings returning to pre-COVID levels in 2023.

Caio also said it was looking to strengthen its role in the high-speed rail sector, alone or in partnership, as part of a broader shift from traditional oil and gas engineering services to infrastructure business and activities related to energy transition.

"We are talking about 26 billion euros that will be deployed both for high-speed rail and for the energy transition," he told analysts, referring to Italian plans using the EU's Recovery and Resilience Plan.

"This is part of a medium-term strategic repositioning that we have carried out in Italy and abroad," he added.

The 2022-25 targets were outweighed for some traders by more concerning news nearer term.

"There is low visibility on 2022 which should be the 'transition year'," a Milan-based trader said, adding the market was also disappointed by the 2022 net debt forecast of 2.2 billion euros ($2.6 billion), higher than a consensus forecast of 1.6 billion euros, according to a Refinitiv SmartEstimate.

Saipem's shares were the biggest fallers on Italy's blue-chip index .FTMIB in afternoon trade.

Demand for oil and the company's products tumbled in the global downturn triggered by the pandemic, which prompted oil majors to slash investments and defer projects to conserve cash.

But as oil prices creep up "the Gulf area is one of the regions where we are seeing a pick-up in investments ... if they were to restart (substantially) we think we will be among those who will benefit," Caio said. Saudi Aramco is one of the company's big customers in the Gulf region.

To help boost growth, Saipem said separately on Thursday it had signed a commercial agreement with oilfield service provider TechnipFMC for specific subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines (SURF) projects. 

Under the 2022-25 plan, Caio pledged cumulative investments of about 1.5 billion euros and forecast average annual revenue growth of 15% until 2025, with net financial debt of less than 1 billion euros by then.

However, expected operational performance growth in 2022 will be offset by cash absorption "due to the dynamics of working capital and by the capex", the company said.

In the three months to the end of September, Saipem made an adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 25 million euros, hit by higher costs for offshore wind activities.

It forecast adjusted core earnings for the second half of the year as a whole, with expected revenues of 4.5 billion euros.

To implement the new plan, which sees an initial 100 million euros reduction in its cost base in 2022, Saipem will adopt a new organisational model divided into four business areas.

($1 = 0.8622 euros)

(Reporting by Maria Pia Quaglia and Giancarlo Navach Editing by Lincoln Feast and Mark Potter) ((mariapia.quaglia@tr.com; +39 06 80307737;))


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