Good fundamentals, confirmed also in 2022, supported an average annual growth of 7.4% in dividend-per-share over the last three years.
With the results achieved in 2022, Italgas proved to be a Group with assets and expertise that can ensure positive performance even in challenging scenarios.
Moreover, shareholders can benefit from the progress achieved by Italgas in its business, through a dividend that has grown by an average of 7.4% per year over the last three years.
The year 2022 presented Italgas with a series of challenges, to which the Group responded firmly, by putting into action its strategic levers.
RAB growth, expansion of ESCo activities, and the contribution of the newly acquired DEPA Infrastructure – consolidated since last September – drove revenues.
Efficient control of operating costs and debt’s limited exposure to changes in interest rates then led the growth in Net Profit, which allowed for a proposed distribution of a 2022 dividend of 0.317 euro per share.
Finally, ESG metrics show that the efforts to reach 2030 targets are heading in the Plan’s direction also in terms of environmental and social performance – both having posted major advances.
The results achieved in 2022 allow Italgas to confirm a path of 6 anni of uninterrupted growth, since its separation from Snam.
The challenges successfully managed during the last financial year prove the quality of the Group’s infrastructures and the solid platform of expertise on which Italgas can leverage to achieve excellent operational and financial performance, even amid very adverse scenarios.
The consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict have marked the last year, with worrying repercussions in terms of the security of energy supplies that have affected gas consumption and, therefore, the volumes distributed, while inflation led to a generalized increase in costs and monetary policies became suddenly restrictive. On the regulatory side, Italgas also had to measure itself, as of 1 January 2022, with the entry into force of a significant cut in the WACC established by ARERA, which together with lower recognized costs together led to lower Revenues, compared to 2021, for almost 63 million euro. Finally, the weather was milder in November and December 2022 than in the same months of 2021, also generating a drop in heating consumption that explains about one-third of the overall 10.4% reduction in volumes of distributed gas.
Despite these features of the external context, Italgas posted a positive set of results, thanks to a few factors that drove Revenues, which more than offset the negative effects of the WACC cut in regulated activities. The RAB growth, fueled by past investments, combined with the strong expansion of ESCo activities and the contribution of the acquisition of DEPA Infrastructure, consolidated as of 1st September 2022, are the main elements that helped compensate for the lower Revenues due to the WACC cut. Adjusted Revenues could therefore increase at a double-digit rate (+12.1%), despite the regulatory discontinuity.
At adjusted EBITDA level, growth amounted to 7.3%. This improvement reflects the continuous and effective control of operating costs in regulated activities, which also decreased in 2022 by 5.1%. The ESCo activities, despite the inflationary impact on the Group’s costs, nevertheless proved to be capable of achieving attractive levels of operating profitability, with an EBITDA that more than tripled compared to 2021.
Leveraging on an efficient financial structure, with 91% of debt at a fixed rate and a cost of debt of less than 1%, Italgas has not suffered the negative effects of the sharp rise in interest rates. With this premise, the progress in adjusted EBITDA could also be transferred to the adjusted Net Profit, which improved by 7.6% in 2022.
Investments in 2022 continued, for a total of €814.3 million. The figure also includes the contribution of around €39 million in capex relating to DEPA Infrastructure for the four months in which it was consolidated in 2022. Overall, investments in 2022 were 5.9% lower than in 2021, but slightly higher than the guidance for the Italian part.
The main investment item, accounting for more than 57% of total investments, continued to be repurposing and development of the network, which in 2022 was in fact extended by more than 500 km, considering both Italy and Greece. The digital transformation of Group assets keeps growing in absolute value compared to 2021. Italgas is strongly committed to transform its network, setting itself the target of having 80% of the network fully digitalized by the end of 2023, while targeting the digitalization of the remaining 20% by 2024. The aim is to have an adequate infrastructure to receive renewable gases: not only biomethane, already transported, but also hydrogen and synthetic methane in the future.
Since September 2022, following the closing of the DEPA Infrastructure acquisition, the integration process of the three DSOs of the Greek group has taken off, through their inclusion in a digitalization path that the Italgas Group has already launched in 2018. The entire digitization process of the newly acquired companies will take place within a shorter timeframe than what was needed in Italy, considering that Italgas will be able to make use of the expertise gained in recent years on its infrastructure in Italy.
From the shareholder’s point of view, the sound results achieved in 2022 turn into higher returns: accordingly, at the next Shareholders’ Meeting of 20 April 2023, the Board of Directors proposes to approve the distribution of a dividend per share of €0.317, up 7.5% compared to the dividend for 2021.
Once again, the size of the dividend increase reflects Italgas’ ability to exceed the minimum growth floor of 4%, through the distribution of profits with a 65% payout, as indicated in the dividend policy.
Looking at the dividends distributed for the last three years, the CAGR stood at 7.4%.
Therefore, Italgas proved to be able to generate continuous improvement in its financials, from which shareholders’ remuneration can also gain direct benefits, despite the difficulties emerged in the external context, with the energy crisis, the pandemic and the penalizations from the regulatory framework that have heavily affected the recent financial years.
Sustainability performance, referring only to the Italian perimeter, highlights significant achievements.
These include energy consumption, which fell by 21% in the last year, with about 2/3 of the reduction attributable to industrial processes thanks also to the application of the subsidiary Geoside’s proprietary technologies, capable of ensuring systematic energy savings.
As a reflection of the drop in energy consumption, Itagas also saw Scope 1 and 2 emissions fall by 12.1% in 2022. About 2/3 of this result is due to lower fugitive emissions, thanks to the proactive application of Picarro technology, with which Italgas inspected 106% of the network.
Scope 3 emissions, relating to the supply chain, decreased by 6.6%, reflecting the effective engagement implemented towards suppliers.
On the Social front, Italgas has taken decisive steps forward, providing many more hours of training per employee: 35 on average in 2022, compared to 29 hours in 2021. A good 26% of these hours were focused on digitalization aspects.
Leadership roles in Italgas today are 25% held by women, compared to 22% in 2021, while the female presence overall is close to 18%.
Therefore, 2022 was a year of relevant achievements along the path – based on innovation, digitalization, reduction of environmental impacts, training, diversity and inclusion – that will lead Italgas towards achieving the targets of its Sustainable Value Creation Plan.