Eni Designates Stefano Cao As New Saipem CEO


MILAN, April 2 (Reuters) - Stefano Cao was designated chief executive of Italian oil contractor Saipem on Thursday by the company's main shareholder Eni, which put forward its slate of candidates for the new board to be appointed in April.

State-controlled Eni, which owns 43 percent of Saipem, said in a statement Cao was the candidate "who possesses the specific professional skills for the appointment as CEO of the company."

Eni's proposals for CEO and board members will be voted on at a Saipem shareholder meeting on April 30.

The appointment of Cao confirms what sources told Reuters in March.

Cao, a former top executive at both Saipem and Eni, will replace current CEO Umberto Vergine who took over at Saipem at the end of 2012 when his predecessor stepped down after it emerged the company was being investigated for corruption in Algeria.

Cao will take over the top spot at Saipem at a difficult time for oil service companies as falling crude prices prompt oil majors to cut spending and defer contracts.

In particular he will have to press ahead with the job of weeding out a string of low-margin legacy contracts that have saddled the company with heavy losses.

Saipem has seen some 10 billion euros ($10.89 billion) wiped off its market value over the past two years after two profit warnings, the corruption investigation in Algeria and a bleak outlook.

In February the company missed full-year forecasts and gave a cautious outlook for the year ahead.

Cao, who was executive chairman of Saipem until 2000, was a long-standing manager at Eni, rising to become head of the core exploration and production.

Eni, which is just over 30 percent controlled by the state, had planned to sell at least part of its stake in Saipem but in December put the process on hold due to adverse market conditions.

($1 = 0.9182 euros)

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; editing by Danilo Masoni and Susan Thomas)


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