Italgas 2022 results show progress compared to 2021 at the level of all P&L key indicators. This positive performance – which is in continuity with the growth path of previous years and in trajectory with the objectives of the 2022-2028 Strategic Plan – was achieved in an external scenario featuring strong disruptions and discontinuities with the past.
The 2022 results also include the first four months of consolidation of the Greek operator DEPA Infrastructure, whose acquisition was finalized on 1st September 2023.
The 12.1% rise in Adjusted Revenues was driven by the energy efficiency business, the contribution of DEPA Infrastructure and the increase in RAB: these factors more than compensated for the negative impact of the WACC regulatory review. On a like-for-like basis, operating costs decreased, in line with the ongoing pursuit of new efficiencies: therefore, despite the impact of increased external costs due to the strong expansion of ESCo activities, adjusted EBITDA grew by 7.3%.
Significant technical investments were also made in 2022, with a focus on the development, maintenance and repurposing of networks, as well as their digitization.
The financial profile of the Group remains solid, despite the increase in Net Financial Debt of approximately one billion euro, which reflects a contraction in Cash Flow, mainly due to the expansion of working capital linked to the strong expansion of ESCo activities, as well as the disbursement for the acquisition of DEPA Infrastructure.
In FY22 Italgas recorded a 12.1% increase in Total Adjusted Revenues, which amounted to €1,537.3m. The increase of €166.5m was mainly attributable to Other Revenues (+€146.4m), which included the positive performance of the energy efficiency business and the capital gain from the sale of the Naples plants. The consolidation, from 1st September 2022, of the newly acquired DEPA Infrastracture also contributed €51.4m.
The Regulated Revenues component, on the other hand, was negatively impacted by the review of the WACC (-€54.4m) and the change in the X-factor (-€8.4m) as a result of Resolution 570/2019/R/gas, partially counterbalanced by the increase in the RAB (+€34.5m), which reflects the past operating investments in regulated activities.
In terms of adjusted EBITDA, Italgas posted a 7.3% increase over the 2021 level, reaching €1,082.7m. Operating Expenses increased by €92.7m up to €454.6m. This increase was mainly driven by higher net external costs, related to the ESCo business (+€92.1m), and the consolidation of DEPA Infrastructure (+€20.8m). On a like-for-like basis, compared to 31st December 2021, Italgas achieved operational efficiencies that resulted in a reduction of €18.5m in costs (-5.1% compared to 2021).
EBIT, at €622.8m, was up 6.8% compared to the previous year, as depreciation and amortization increased by €34.2m (+8% vs. 2021), due to new investments made and the change in the scope of consolidation following the consolidation of DEPA Infrastructure.
The Group’s adjusted net profit was €395.7m, up 7.6% vs. that the end of 2021: a slightly higher growth rate than that of EBIT, despite higher adjusted net financial expenses of €2.3m, due to higher average debt, partially offset by a cost of debt slightly lower than in 2021. The growth in adjusted Net Profit over 2022 benefits from a tax rate of 25.9% (26.6% in the adjusted configuration), down from 27% in the previous year.
Investments in digitization grow and the programme of development, maintenance and repurposing of networks continues
Italgas also executed a significant operational investment plan in 2022, which was largely covered by cash generation. At the same time, having completed the acquisition of DEPA Infrastructure, Italgas was able to maintain a solid and efficient financial structure.
Italgas’ Capex in 2022 amounted to €814.3m, compared to €865.1m in 2021.
Although slightly down from the previous year, investments in infrastructure development, maintenance and repurposing, amounting to €468m, represent almost 60% of the total amount. Including the consolidation of the Greek companies, Italgas laid 532 km of new pipelines last year. Through the new investments, Italgas is making the network increasingly smart in its operation and suitable for new gas.
Investments in Sardinia were also lower than in 2021, as the methanization process in the region is almost complete, with 909 km of network laid out of a planned total of around 1,110 km. At the end of December 2022, 66 LNG storage and regasification plants were also operational in Sardinia, 13 of which were opened in the last year.
Investments in digitization, which amounted to €229m in 2022, were the only ones to see an increase compared to the previous year. Investments in this field were mainly dedicated to the installation of devices that enable data acquisition for the remote control and monitoring of the network and plants. This type of investment also includes investment in metering, which, on the other hand, is showing a reduction as the completion of the plan to replace traditional meters approaches. During 2022, 413 thousand new smart meters were installed, of which 41 thousand in Greece. Overall, by the end of 2022, installed smart meters accounted for around 93% of the total meter fleet, representing essentially all active meters.
Cash Flow from operating activities, at €571.7m, was 31% lower than in 2021, mainly due to the expansion of working capital (€240.4m), which was related to credits for ESCo’s Superbonus and Ecobonus projects and other temporary factors. Operating cash flow, however, covered most of the CapEx carried out in 2022, which generated outflows of €718.3m net of IFRS16 effects. Divestments, on the other hand, generated inflows of €325.4m.
Free Cash Flow before M&A, after the partial absorption of the net investment flow of €392.9m, therefore amounted to €178.8m. Considering the M&A (€975.9m) and the change in Shareholders’ Equity of €217.1m, which includes the distribution of dividends for FY21, Net Financial Debt increased by €1,014.2m to €6,000.1m, including €72m of IFRS 16 effects.
The Group maintains a solid and efficient debt structure, with 91% of debt at a fixed rate and limited refinancing needs until 2024.
Despite the strong volatility in the financial markets, Italgas was able to secure new financing in the third quarter of 2022, including a loan of €150m from the EIB, with a maturity of 15 years, dedicated to energy efficiency projects, and a package of long-term bonds and loans with Eurobank S.A., for an amount of a maximum of €580m, dedicated to the long-term development investment plan of DEPA Infrastructure and its subsidiaries.
At the end of 2022, Italgas can also count on cash and cash equivalents of more than €450m, while boasting a cost of debt of less than 1% – one of the lowest in the industry. In light of this picture, the two agencies Fitch and Moody’s in 2022 confirmed the solid investment grade rating on Italgas’ long-term debt.