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Coronavirus emergency and Business outlook

The so-called “Coronavirus Emergency” unfolded in Italy in February 2020 in relation to the spread of infection across the whole of Italy and the necessary emergency measures taken by the Health and Government Authorities to contain the spread.

The Company set up a Crisis Committee in the hours immediately following the onset of the first cases. In the light of the measures and indications of the competent authorities, this committee monitored, and continues to constantly monitor, the developments of the crisis and takes appropriate measures while ensuring the continuity and efficiency of essential and necessary services, focusing in particular on emergency intervention services.

In compliance with the emergency measures issued by the Authorities, only work considered to be essential was covered, and all worksite activities have been suspended. Technical staff assigned the task of carrying out work off the company premises, where provided for under current provisions, have been equipped with the necessary personal protection equipment required in order to ensure their safety. Operating activities, both at worksites and maintenance and services on user premises, including the replacement of traditional meters with smart meters, started up again gradually from 4 May 2020, in accordance with the time frames provided for and permitted by Government Decree (DPCM) of 26 April 2020, as amended.

Italgas has also provided free serological screening for its people, on an entirely voluntary basis, also guaranteeing swab tests, in line with current regional regulations, and supervision by the Medical Officer, if the test is positive. The initiative, shared with the trade union representatives, was thereafter gradually extended to all employees based in other regions.

At present, the company does not anticipate any major adverse impacts on the development and investment initiatives as a result of the slowing down and suspension of activities and the deteriorating macroeconomic situation caused by the global spread of the pandemic. Since the reopening of business under the above-mentioned Government Decree, as amended, measures have been implemented, by leveraging process digitisation, to solve delays to original work execution plans caused by the suspension of worksite activities and work on user premises.

With reference to the customer base/sales company and their solvency, it is noted that the rules for user access to the Gas distribution service are established by ARERA and are regulated in the Network code.

In April 2020, the Company received a communication from some sales companies indicating the possibility of making use of the faculties granted by Resolution no. 116/2020/R/com, as amended, for payments due in April and, based on subsequent extensions, for payments due on or before 30 June 2020, if the conditions should be met. Considering the number of operators that have made recourse to the faculties granted by the above-mentioned resolution, the Company has not seen any significant adverse repercussions on receipts expected from gas sales companies that would jeopardise the financial balance of the Group, or on the regularity of payments by counterparties. For invoices due in April, May and June 2020, the average collection was equal to around 90%.

Moreover, with Resolution no. 248/2020/R/com of 30 June 2020, the Authority required sales companies to pay the balance of the total amounts invoiced by distributors and not paid during the derogation period, as a lump sum in September or in three instalments from September to November. As at 31 December 2020, the sales companies have complied with their obligations in accordance with the time frames of the above-mentioned Resolution no. 248/2020/R/com.

With regard to access to credit, Italgas does not foresee any significant negative impacts, taking the following into account: (i) the Company has cash deposited with major credit institutions for a total of € 663.5 million as at 31 December 2020 and a completely undrawn committed long-term credit line of € 500 million, maturing in October 2021, taken out with a pool of Italian and international banks, (ii) there are limited requirements to refinance debt (the first bond repayment is due in 2022), (iii) the bonds issued by Italgas as at 31 December 2020, as part of the Euro Medium Term Notes Programme, do not require the observance of covenants relating to the data in the financial statements.

Any downgrading of the rating of Italgas or of any guarantors in excess of pre-established thresholds, could lead to the issuance of guarantees for certain lenders or a rise in the spreads applied.

The company’s financial soundness is confirmed by the success of i) the bond issue of € 500 million, completed on 24 June 2020, implementing the EMTN Programme (renewed on 20 October 2020 for € 6.5 billion), ii) the “dual-tranche” bond issue maturing in February 2028 and February 2033, for a total of € 500 million each, iii) as well as by the confirmation on 3 December 2020 of the rating by Fitch (BBB+, stable Outlook) and Moody’s (Baa2, stable Outlook).

The company has also introduced initiatives supporting the fight against the Coronavirus Emergency. In particular, in addition to facilitating voluntary fundraising by its employees, it has donated to hospitals, healthcare facilities and to the Civil Protection, and has also made its skills and know-how available to the community.

With reference to the impacts, including potential ones, on revenues, costs, investments and cash flows expected as a result of the limitations imposed by the Coronavirus Emergency, the Company has not found any evidence to date to suggest significant negative effects on the 2021 results.

However, the Company is currently unable to estimate the potential material negative effects on the economic, financial and equity Outlook of the years to follow, should the health emergency situation return to a critical state and last significantly longer.

In this context, Italgas will therefore continue to pursue its strategic objectives, focusing on digital transformation with the goal of improving service quality, streamlining processes and operating costs, whilst paying constant attention to development opportunities. With specific regard to investments, Italgas expects to continue its plan targeted primarily at the implementation of network digitisation projects and the completion of installation of “smart” meters and natural gas distribution of Sardinia, plus the normal maintenance and development of the networks managed.