The Italian government is set to appoint a new chief executive for state-controlled energy group Enel, in the wake of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s determination to oust the current CEO Francesco Starace. Italy’s search for Starace’s successor has put investors’ demands at the center of the process, as they seek a candidate with expertise in renewable energy and an international focus.
Enel is one of the world’s biggest players in renewable energy, boasting an installed capacity of almost 60 Gigawatts (GW). Francesco Starace won plaudits for his sustainable energy initiatives, though investor restlessness grew in recent times due to a growing debt pile of around 60 billion euros, while the pandemic’s effects further hampered the company’s net profits. To counter this, Enel has announced a new 5-year strategy to 2025, promising to reduce net debt by 21 billion euros and investing 37 billion euros in increasing installed renewable capacity.
Head-hunters hired by the Treasury have also been hard at work identifying potential successors with the required skillset suitable to guide the energy group. Among the leading contenders are Stefano Donnarumma, CEO of Italian power grid operator Terna; Luigi Ferraris, who previously worked for 16 years with Enel; Francesco Venturini, in charge of Enel X; and Flavio Cattaneo, vice president of high-speed train operator Italo. Alternative energy investment firm Ecofin has also expressed their wishes for continuity of strategy with the new head, preferring not to see a drastic change in focus.
Although Italy may push for a more domestically-focused company, investors have directed attention towards US President Joe Biden’s green energy subsidy package. North America’s potential double-digit returns are expected to underpin Enel’s attractive dividend policy, compared to the single-digit returns in Europe.
Enel is one of Europe’s leading integrated electricity and gas companies, providing customers with electricity and natural gas through a network of about 2.3 million direct customers and 39.4 million indirect customers. Headquartered in Rome, Italy, the group operates in more than 30 countries across four continents and is a leader in the green and digital technology industries.