World newswires

Eni returns to profit thanks to rising oil prices

Italian energy giant Eni said Friday it returned to profit in the first quarter, the latest oil company to recover from the coronavirus crisis after a rebound in crude prices.

Eni booked a net profit of 856 million euros ($1 billion) in the first three months of the year following 2.9 billion euros in losses in the same period last year.

The results were far better than expected, as analysts polled by Factset had forecast 578 million euros.

"The first quarter of 2021 has been significantly impacted by ongoing national lockdowns, however despite this Eni has achieved significantly improved results," chief executive Claudio Descalzi said in a statement.

"With the pandemic situation gradually improving, and a broadening economic recovery looking more likely, we have been able to improve our outlook for the coming months," he added.

Eni expects free cash flow generation of more than three billion euros this year, based on a scenario of oil prices staying at around $60 per barrel.

Other European energy majors such as Britain's BP, French firm Total, Anglo-Dutch group Shell and Spain's Repsol also posted strong quarterly profits this week driven by rebounding crude prices.

On Friday, Eni also announced plans to capitalise from the planned merger between its retail and renewable energy units.

The new entity may be spun off and listed on the stock market, or Eni may sell a minority stake in it, the board said in a statement.

"The objective of the new company will be to develop renewable generation capacity in excess of five gigawatts by 2025," Eni said.