The 2014 outlook features a moderate strengthening in the global economic recovery. Still a number of uncertainties are surrounding this outlook due to weak growth prospects in the Euro-zone and risks concerning the emerging economies. Crude oilprices are forecast on a solid trend driven by geopolitical factors and the resulting technical issues in a few important producing Countries against the backdrop of well supplied global markets. Management expects that the trading environment will remainchallenging in the Company’s businesses. We expect continuing weak conditions in the European industries of gas distribution, refining and marketing of fuels and chemical products, where we do not anticipate any meaningful improvement in demand, while competition, excess supplies and overcapacity will continue to weigh on selling margins of energy commodities. In this scenario, management reaffirms its commitment in restoring profitability and preserving cash generation at the Company’s mid and downstream businesses leveraging on cost cuts and continuing renegotiation of long-term gas supply contracts, capacity restructuring and reconversion and product and marketing innovation.
Management expects the key production and sales trends of Eni businesses to be as follows:
- Production of liquids and natural gas: production is expected to remain substantially in line to 2013, excluding the impact of the divestment of Eni’s interest in the Russian gas assets of Artic Russia;
- Gas sales: natural gas sales are expected to be slightly lower than 2013. Management plans to strengthen marketing efforts and innovation to fend off competitive pressures both in the large customers segment and in the retail segment considering an ongoing demand downturn and oversupplies, particularly in Italy;
- Refining throughputs on Eni’s account: volumes are expected to be slightly lower than those processed in 2013, due to capacity reductions only partially offset by higher output at the new Est technology conversion plant at the Sannazzaro Refinery;
- Retail sales of refined products in Italy and the Rest of Europe: retail sales are expected to be slightly lower than in 2013 due to an ongoing demand downturn in Italy and the expected impact of network reorganisation in Italy and in Europe;
- Engineering & Construction: 2014 will be a transitional year with a recovery in profitability, the dimension of which relies upon the effective execution of operational and commercial activities at low-margin contracts still present in the current portfolio, in addition to the speed at which bids underway will be awarded.
In 2014, management expects a capital budget in line with 2013 (€12.75 billion in capital expenditure and €0.32 billion in financial investments in 2013). Assuming a Brent price of $104 a barrel on average for the full year 2014, the ratio of net borrowings to total equity – leverage – is projected to be almost in line with the level achieved at the end of 2013, due to cash flows from operations and portfolio transactions.