Over three-quarters of the investments were dedicated to distribution, especially to network development & renewal and digitization. In the first six months of 2020, 486 km of new pipes have been laid down, compared to 379 km in first-half 2019. A considerable portion of the works was focused on Sardinia, where a 216 km expansion allowed for reaching 680 km of networks already in place, out of a total planned of around 1,100 km.
The program for the replacement of traditional meters continued also during the lockdown. With 555 thousand new smart meters installed in the first half of 2020, including affiliates, of which 411 thousand related to the replacement of first-generation meters, today the total reached 7.1 million. The completion of the program for the digitization of the entire meter pool is therefore confirmed by the end of the year. Since 1st January 2020, the number of new redelivery points connected to the Italgas network increased by 14.7 thousand, of which more than half (51.7%) related to the newly-acquired companies.
During the first half 2020, the Cash Flow from Operations, equal to 388.8 million euro, fully funded Net Investments of 387.3 mn€. Free Cash Flow before M&A activities was therefore 1.5 mn€. In first-half 2020, M&A operations absorbed 10.7 mn€, while the payment of 2019 dividend resulted in a disbursement of 206 mn€. Net Financial Debt as of 30 June 2020 therefore reached 4,625.8 million euro, up by 215.2 million euro compared to the 4,410.6 million euro at 2019 year-end, excluding the effects ex IFRS16 (75.5 million euro).
At the end of June 2020, Italgas continues to have a solid and efficient debt structure, with no need for debt refinancing before 2022 and a 92.3% weight of fixed-rate debt, increasing as a result of the bond issued in June for a nominal value of 500 million euro. Italgas also has bank deposits of 336 million euro and can count on undrawn committed credit lines of 500 million euro, maturing in October 2021. The cost of debt around 1.1% is among the lowest in the industry.