MILAN, July 31 (Reuters) - Eni on Thursday laid out plans to sell assets, including a multi-billion dollar stake in oil service firm Saipem, and downsize its ailing refinery business to help fund its transformation into a leaner oil and gas outfit.
In a strategy update, new Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi said he would axe "useless activity" and runaway costs as part of a major shake-up at the Italian major which is looking to save over 1.7 billion euros by 2018.
Top of the list is cutting refining capacity in Italy by half, exploring options to sell all or part of its $5 billion dollar stake in Saipem and shedding up to 20 percent of its giant Rovuma gas field in Mozambique.
"We like Saipem but it's not core to be in a contractor company ... It's more a strategic move for us than a need for cash," Descalzi said during his presentation in London.
Earlier in July sources told Reuters Eni's new management planned to press on with the sale of a stake in Saipem so it could focus on the more lucrative business of finding oil and gas.
Proceeds from the group's planned 11 billion euros of disposals will be used to accelerate its makeover into a slimmer exploration and production (E&P) player focused on reserve growth in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia as it targets an annual output growth of 3 percent.
In Mozambique, Eni expects to take a final investment decision on its Rovuma gas field and several floating LNG production plants later this year, Descalzi and other Eni executives said at the meeting.
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