The Group is exposed to various market risks with particular reference to the risk of price/volume oscillations for commodities being bought and sold, interest rate risks and foreign exchange risks to a lesser extent. To reduce exposure to within the defined limits, the Group enters into contracts drawn up on the basis of the typologies offered by the market.
The Market Risk is the risk concerning the unexpected effects on the value of the portfolio of assets due to changes to the market conditions.
In this context, reference is made to the Price Risk and Volume Risk cases as defined:
- Price Risk: risk linked to the change in commodities prices due to the difference in the price indices for purchases and sales of Electricity, Natural Gas and EUA Environmental Certificates;
- Volume Risk: the risk linked to changes in the volumes effectively consumed by clients compared to the volumes envisaged in the sales contracts (sale profile) or, in general, the balancing of positions in the portfolios.
Through the activities carried out by the Commodity Risk Control Unit of the Finance Unit within the Administration, Finance and Control department, Acea SpA ensures the analysis and measurement of exposure to market risks, interacting with the Energy Management Unit of Acea Energia SpA, verifying compliance with the limits and criteria adopted by the General Risk Management of the Commercial and Trading Sector and by the Administration, Finance and Control Department in line with the Acea SpA’s “Guidelines for the Internal Control and Risk Management System” and the specific procedures. The analysis and management of risks is carried out according to a second-level control process that involves the execution of activities throughout the year with different frequency by type of limit (annual, monthly and daily), carried out by the Commodity Risk Control Unit and by risk owners.
- every year, the measures of the risk indicators, i.e. the limits in force, must be reviewed and respected in the management of the risks;
- every day, the Commodity Risk Control Unit is responsible for verifying the exposure to market risks of the companies in the Commercial and Trading Industrial Segment and for verifying compliance with the defined limits.
The reports are sent to the Top Management on a daily and monthly basis. When requested by the Internal Control System, Commodity Risk Control prepares the information requested and available to the system in the format appropriate to the procedures in force and sends it to Acea SpA’s Internal Audit Unit.
The risk limits of the Commercial and Trading Sector are defined in such a way as to:
- minimise the overall risk of the entire segment;
- guarantee the necessary operating flexibility in the provisioning of commodities and hedging;
- reduce the possibility of over-hedging deriving from the variation in expected volumes for the definition of hedges.
The management and mitigation of commodity risk are functional to achieving the economic and financial objectives of Acea Group, as indicated in the budget, in particular:
- to protect the primary margin against unforeseen and unfavourable short-term shocks in the energy market which affect revenues or costs;
- to identify, measure manage and represent exposure to risks;
- to reduce risks through the preparation and application of adequate internal controls, procedures, information systems and expertise.
Forward contracts (for physical transactions for the purchase and sale of commodities) are stipulated to meet the expected requirements deriving from the contracts in the portfolio.
The risk hedging strategy adopted by the Commercial and Trading Industrial Area also aims to minimise the risk associated with the volatility of the Income Statement deriving from the variability of market prices and ensure correct application of the Hedge Accounting (in accordance with current International Accounting Standards) to all derivative financial instruments used for such purpose.
As regards the commitments undertaken by the Acea Group to stabilise the cash flow from purchases and sales of electricity, it should be noted that all of the ongoing hedging operations are recorded in the accounts using the flow hedge method, as far as the effectiveness of hedging can be demonstrated. The financial instruments used are of the swap and contracts for difference (CFD) type, or other instruments aimed at hedging commodity price risk.
The evaluation of risk exposure involves the following activities:
- recording of all transactions involving physical quantities carried out in special books (known as Commodity Books) differentiated according to the purpose of the activity (Sourcing on wholesale markets, Portfolio Management, Sale to end customers within and outside the Acea Group) and commodities (e.g., Electricity, Gas and EUA);
- daily checks on observance of limits applicable to the various Commodity Books.
The activity performed by the Commodity Risk Control Unit provides for daily codified checks at “event” on compliance with risk procedures and limits (also for purposes of compliance with Law 262/05) and reports to the Top Management any discrepancies detected during the phases of checks, so that measures can be adopted to be within the established limits.
The Acea Group’s approach to managing interest rate risk, which takes the structure of assets and the stability of the Acea Group’s cash flows into account, has essentially been targeted, up to now, at hedging funding costs and stabilising cash flows, in such a way as to safeguard margins and ensure the certainty of cash flows deriving from ordinary activities.
The Acea Group’s approach to managing interest rate risk is, therefore, prudent and the methods used tend to be static in nature.
In particular, for static management (to be opposed to the dynamic one) we mean a type of management of interest rate risk that does not provide for daily operations on the markets but an analysis and control of the position carried out periodically on the basis of specific needs. This type of management therefore involves daily activity in the markets, not for trading purposes but in order to hedge the identified exposure in the medium/long term.
Acea has, up to now, opted to minimise interest rate risk by choosing a mixed range of fixed and floating rate funding instruments.
As it is known, fixed rate funding protects a borrower from cash flow risk in that it stabilises the financial outflows in the income statement, whilst heightening exposure to fair value risk in terms of changes in the market value of the debt.
The Group is not particularly exposed to this type of risk, which is concentrated in the conversion of the financial statements of its overseas subsidiaries.
As regards the 20 billion Yen Private Placement, the exchange rate risk is hedged through a cross currency swap described in the section on interest rate risk.
For years now Acea has followed a development path focused on the use of new technologies as a driving force for the operational efficiency, safety and resilience of its industrial assets. The main business processes are now all supported by the use of advanced information systems, implemented and managed by the Group’s centralised departments to support the operations of the various companies. In this sense, the Group is therefore exposed to the risks of the adequacy of the IT infrastructure to the current or future needs of the various businesses, as well as to the risks of unauthorised access to the data processed using IT procedures, with or without intent, and in any case inappropriate or not in compliance with current regulations. Acea manages these risks with the utmost attention through specific corporate compliance structures coordinated by specialised Group safeguards.
As far as cyber security of systems, infrastructure, networks and other electronic devices is concerned within the scope of the services provided or the respective Group Companies, the current procedural and technological safeguards of the Companies themselves are implementing all the necessary actions to align their cyber security posture with the main national and international industry standards in order to increase their resilience to risks of this nature, possible repercussions in terms of business interruption and regulatory non-compliance. Technological and organisational measures are being implemented with the aim of:
- managing the threats to the organisation’s network infrastructure and information systems in order to ensure a level of security appropriate to the existing risk;
- Preventing accidents and minimising their impact on the security of the network and information systems used to provide services, so as to ensure their continuity.
The Group policy for managing liquidity risk, for both Acea and its subsidiaries, involves the adoption of a financial structure which, coherent with business objectives and within the limits defined by the Board of Directors, guarantees a suitable liquidity level that can meet short/medium-term financial requirements, while maintaining an appropriate balance between maturity and composition of debt, also taking into account the challenging objectives set out in the Business Plan in terms of developing new M&A initiatives. The various elements of uncertainty faced by the Group include the potential economic, financial and reputational impacts associated with the closing of or failure to close the aforementioned transactions.
The Acea Group has therefore adopted an articulated and structured assessment process for these risks, carried out in close coordination between the companies and the Parent Company’s organisational controls of the individual types of risk.
The liquidity risk management process, which uses financial planning tools for outflows and receipts implemented at the level of the individual companies under the coordination of specific Group oversight, aimed at optimising the management of treasury hedges and to monitor the trend of consolidated financial debt, is carried out both through cash pooling management both through the support and assistance provided to the subsidiaries and associated companies with which there is no centralised finance contract.
In 2019 Acea issued the new guidelines of the credit policy to make it consistent with the ongoing organisational changes and the Credit Risk Profiling project, with which different credit management strategies have been identified. The “Scoring and customer credit limit” procedure for non-regulated markets was also issued.
The Credit Check system, which has been operating in unregulated markets for several years and with which all new mass market and small business customers are checked through customised scorecards, was integrated with the CRM in 2018.
The project activities regarding Credit Risk Profiling, (2021- 2023 three-year period), whose scope of operations has been remodelled and expanded, have all been started and partly completed.
In this context, in 2021, the models for assessing the risk of requests in acquisition of individuals and legal entities relating to the mass market and small business channels “outside of Rome” were updated. The updated scorecards were released into production in early 2022. The models and tools for managing Large Business customers were also optimised during 2021. The information platforms supporting sales and the tool for monitoring KPI requests in acquisition managed by the advanced monitoring dashboard, which was released into production in June 2020, are still active.
The assessment of Large Business customers continues to be managed through an approval workflow with decision-making bodies consistent with the level of exposure expected from the supply.
The dynamic management of recovery strategies is carried out in the billing system for active customers and through a dedicated management system for those discontinued. In 2021, the fine-tuning and optimisation of the credit management process continued in terms of both the application map and the standardisation of activities for all Group companies, with the definition of a new Collection Strategy, fully integrated into the systems, which directs dunning activities according to both the type of customer (public and private) and the behaviour of individual customers (score).
Back testing of the performance scorecards of individuals and legal entities for both the free market and the greater protection market is planned for 2022, so as to further adjust, where appropriate, the dunning strategies in accordance with the relevant findings.
The structures of the individual companies responsible for credit management are coordinated by Acea SpA’s Corporate Credit unit, which guarantees end-to-end control of the entire process.
The mass management of active and inactive receivables of a limited amount was carried out by the operating companies, leaving to the holding company the activity of disposing of non-performing receivables through disposal operations, as well as the management of inactive customers with significant amounts due.
As a result of these interventions, in recent years the Group significantly improved its collections capacity both in terms of electricity sales and the water supply business.
This improvement, together with the return to full operation of dunning and posting activities after the 2020 suspensions during the acute phase of the pandemic, resulted in a significant reduction in unpaid levels on current turnover and high collection performance.
As in previous years, this year the Group has set up non-recourse, revolving and spot transactions, of receivables from pri- 116 vate customers and public administrations. This strategy exposes the Group to the risks involved in closing or failing to close these operations, and on the other hand allows the full derecognition of the corresponding assets subject to disposal from the financial statements since all the risks and benefits associated with them have been transferred.
Access to the capital market and other forms of funding and the related costs, depends amongst other things on the Group’s credit rating.
A reduction in the credit rating by rating agencies could represent a limiting factor for access to the capital market and increase collecting costs with the consequent negative effects on the equity, economic and financial standing of the Group.
Acea’s current rating is shown in the following table.
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