MILAN, April 29 (Reuters) - Italian oil and gas group Eni beat operating profit expectations in the first quarter despite swinging to a net loss because of weak oil prices and a charge on its Saipem holding.
Adjusted operating profit fell 95 percent to 73 million euros ($83 million) but was above an analyst consensus of 22 million euros.
"Overall, the group's financial and operating results allow us to confirm our 2016 guidance," CEO Claudio Descalzi said, referring to a 20 percent cut to capital investment and a leverage ratio below 0.3.
Oil majors are tackling the oil price rout by reducing capital expenditure, cutting jobs and deferring big projects.
"This is a good set of results, especially in the light of the unfavourable conditions pertaining to the sector regarding E&P (exploration and production)," broker ICBPI said in a note.
BP, Statoil and Total surprised analysts this week by beating expectations, reflecting sweeping cost cuts as well as resilient refining, trading and petrochemical operations.
State-controlled Eni, which has taken a final investment decision for its giant Zohr gas field in Egypt, expected to start production in 2017, said its production of oil and gas had grown 3.4 percent in the quarter.
It confirmed that it expects output this year to be in line with 2015.
Shares in Eni were down 0.5 percent at 0716 GMT, against a 1 percent decline for the European oil and gas index
Eni swung to a first-quarter net loss of 792 million euros from an 832 million euro profit a year earlier, citing weak oil prices and the charge on the Saipem holding it deconsolidated this year.
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by David Goodman)
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