In the flurry of results that were announced from the European utilities this week, it seems that 2013 was a good, if not necessarily a vintage, year.
Investors, in most cases, have reasons to be cheerful. Even if some might try to tell you otherwise.
But, in a wider reflection of the economic malaise of the Euro zone - and whilst the Northern European firms looked like serious blue chip investments - some in Southern Europe carried a note of caution.
However, in Italy, an economy that has stayed largely stagnant since the global financial crisis, investors have more to worry about than stock performance alone. For, while the overall performance of the utility matters, it’s the political machinations that go on behind the scenes (in the largely state owned enterprises) that’s a cause for concern.
Over the coming weeks, the Italian Treasury is to embark upon a drive to recruit 500 new appointments to top positions within state, or semi-state owned firms.
Enel, and its energy group cousin, Eni, are both to see some change.
And whilst Enel has managed to remain largely stable – even reducing its debt pile by Euro 3billion – investors will want to know whether the new senior executives will be able to keep the firm on the same footing.
After all, Enel, along with Eni, is a major contributor to Italian GDP, and the main driver towards the deployment of renewable energy projects in Italy.
For investors, that government dependence alone is usually something that sounds a note of caution.
However, the fact that the appointments are likely to reflect the makeup of the Italian political system means that this latest round of chair shuffling is starting to cause some serious concern.
Moreover, if the Italian utilities are to compete with their Northern European counterparts, such as DONG Energy, which already has a significant state holding and only last week confirmed fresh investment from Goldman Sachs, then the appointment and selection process for senior personnel needs to be unequivocally non-politicised.
That’s easy on paper. In reality however, it’s something very different.
Moreover, it’s important to remember that for power and energy utilities, the recent economic malaise has created a future that’s far from certain. If, therefore, any utility is to truly safeguard and protect its future - and reassure its investor base - there’s simply no room for question when it comes to the competence of the senior team.
As the Italian government once again shuffles the pack, aspiring political leaders like Matteo Renzi, the 39-year old reformist and mayor of Florence, should take heed.
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