SIGNIFICANT EVENTS DURING THE PERIOD AND AFTERWARDS
On 14 January Fitch Ratings confirmed its Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) for Acea of “BBB+” with “Stable” outlook, and the Short-Term IDR of “F2”. The Long-Term Senior Unsecured Rating of “BBB+” was also confirmed.
Confirmation of the rating reflects the focus of the Group’s strategy on regulated business, strong operating performance and a good level of available liquidity. These factors offset the increase in debt linked to investment programmes in innovation and sustainability included in the 2020-2024 Business Plan.
On 21 January, Acea SpA successfully completed placement of its first Green Bond issue for a total amount of € 900 million, in two series, in the context of the Green Financing Framework recently published and under the € 4 billion Euro Medium Term Notes (EMTN) programme (the “Bonds”), with the Base Prospectus as last updated on 24 July 2020 and subsequently amended on 15 January 2021. The first series totalled € 300 million, with a rate of 0% and maturity on 28 September 2025 (the “2025 Bonds”) and the second series totalled € 600 million, with a rate of 0.25% and expiry on 28 July 2030 (the “2030 Bonds”).
Acea enters the business of electric mobility charging services across the country by launching the “Acea e-Mobility” App, which makes it possible to charge an electric vehicle at over 10,000 points in Italy, thanks to the interoperability agreements signed with other sector operators.
The App was developed to provide customers with a useful tool for easy management of all steps in the charging service: it will be possible to locate available active charging columns, book them, charge an electric or plug-in vehicle, monitor the charging status and manage payments with the main channels available (credit/ debit card, prepaid cards or Apple Pay). The Acea e-Mobility Card will also be available for use with other associated services.
Charging points will be free to book through the App until 31 December 2021. Acea Energia also offers three different wallbox models that will allow customers to charge their vehicle at their own home.
On 22 April, the Acea SpA Shareholders’ Meeting approved the Financial Statements and presented the Consolidated Financial Statements at 31 December 2020, which showed a net profit, following allocations to third parties, of € 284.9 million. The Consolidated Non-Financial Statement pursuant to Italian Legislative Decree 254/2016 (2020 Sustainability Report) was also presented to the Shareholders.
The Meeting also approved the allocation of profit for the year as proposed by the Board of Directors and the distribution of the dividend.
The total dividend (coupon no. 22) of € 170,038,325.60, equal to € 0.80 per share, will be paid starting from 23 June 2021 with coupon detachment on 21 June and record date 22 June.
Offering its contribution to speed up the Covid-19 vaccination plan coordinated by the Italian Ministry of Health, Acea has provided support to institutions, starting with the Lazio Region, for the actions implemented by the Italian Government. In particular, the company has provided a vaccination hub where the local population, as well as employees, can be administered up to around 1,000 doses per day. The company “Autoparco” in Piazzale Ostiense has been fitted out as a hub for vaccinations. The area dedicated to administering them will be operational 7 days a week, with 12, 16 and even 24-hour shifts expected.
Acea signed an agreement for the acquisition of 65% of Deco (and through this of Ecologica Sangro). Deco operates in the waste sector in Abruzzo and is engaged in the design, construction and management of plants for the treatment, disposal and recovery of municipal solid waste and plants for energy recovery from renewable sources. The scope of the business being acquired includes: a Mechanical-Biological Treatment (MBT) plant with an authorised capacity of 270,000 tonnes/year, a photovoltaic plant, a biogas plant and two disposal plants. Ecologica Sangro operates, again in Abruzzo, in the sector of integrated management of municipal solid waste; the assets covered by the agreement are a disposal plant and a biogas plant. The closing of the agreement is expected before the end of the year.
Acea also signed an agreement for the acquisition of 70% of Serplast and 60% of Meg, companies operating in the plastic recycling business, a segment downstream of post-consumption plastic selection in which Acea is already present with Demap and Cavallari.
The Serplast and Meg plants are present respectively in Abruzzo and Veneto. The estimated volumes processed in 2021 are approximately 70,000 tonnes/year.
Acea and the Inter-university Consortium for Materials Science and Technology (INSTM) signed a framework agreement for the development of new materials and the application of innovative technologies aimed at the sustainable management of raw materials and the recycling of products, according to the logics of 106 the national and European circular economy. The purpose of the project is to make the production processes and the value chains sustainable, on the one hand increasing the efficiency of the materials, on the other investing in re-use and in the use of recycled products for the production of durable goods with high added value. In this way it will be possible to reduce the use of natural resources generating positive repercussions on the environment and the community.
Acea and the Suez Group signed a Term Sheet relating to the creation of a joint venture for the design of an advanced smart metering system for the water service (so-called smart meter), and its subsequent production and marketing in Italy and abroad on the basis of a specific commercial partnership. The market for smart metering systems for water service is currently expanding worldwide and is worth more than € 4 billion annually.
The Project is characterised by digitisation and technological innovation functional to the smart metering of the water service and has a strategic nature for both companies involved, who are among the most significant operators, at international level, in the water sector and environmental protection. Specifically, the Project envisages the creation of a new generation multifunction meter unique on the market, equipped with NBIOT connectivity, which Acea and the Suez Group believe represents a breakthrough in future communication technologies in this sector. To this end, the companies involved are jointly developing a patent, pooling their complementary expertise.
Acea, through its subsidiary Areti, has launched a “SMART GRID” project, which, as part of the broader development plan of the electricity network of the Capital, will allow for a more innovative and efficient infrastructure.
The implementation phase of the project has been entrusted to two important technological partners, Sirti, innovation hub in the field of network infrastructure development and systems development and integration, and Nokia, global leader in communication solutions and technologies.
Thanks to this project, the remote control of primary and secondary substations will be greatly enhanced, obtaining greater automation of the same, with a consequent improvement in service levels.
The new carrier grade network, with three hierarchical layers - will also ensure high security standards, enabling future 5G evolutions.
Acea has signed an agreement with UK infrastructure fund investor Equitix, through its manager Equitix Investment Management Limited (“Equitix”), to sell a majority stake in the newco to which Acea’s photovoltaic assets already in operation or being connected to the grid in Italy have been transferred.
In particular, Equitix will acquire a 60% stake in the newly established company (“HoldCo”) to which will be transferred a portfolio of photovoltaic plants, currently owned by Acea Sun Capital, with a total installed capacity of 105 MW, of which 46 MW incentivised on the basis of different Energy Accounts and 59 MW for new construction already connected or being connected to the network.
Acea will maintain the management of the plants through the signing of multi-year contracts with HoldCo relating to operation & maintenance and asset management activities. Acea Group has also committed to withdraw energy produced by newly built plants on the basis of long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs).
In addition, HoldCo will have the opportunity to evaluate access to a pipeline of photovoltaic plants up to approximately 500 MW, under development by Acea Group.
The economic value of the transaction, referring to 100% of the plant portfolio, in terms of Enterprise Value is € 220 million, which represents an EV/EBITDA 2022 multiple of 10x.
The transaction is part of the 2020/2024 Business Plan presented in October 2020 and aims to accelerate the Acea Group’s growth in the renewable energy sector and create a platform focused on the development of photovoltaic plants with a target capacity of 750 MW in the medium term.
The consortium formed by Ascopiave (58%), Acea (28%) and Iren (14%), after having won the tender for the sale by A2A of concessions in the natural gas distribution service, signed an agreement with the A2A Group for the acquisition of the relative assets.
The scope of activities covered by the transaction includes approximately 157 thousand users, distributed in 8 Italian Regions, belonging to 24 ATEMs, for over 2,800 km of network.
The economic value of the acquisition in terms of Enterprise Value, as of 30 June 2021, is € 126.7 million. The expected average annual EBITDA over the 2022-2024 period is approximately € 12.8 million, while the 2020 RAB of the acquired assets is € 108.9 million (including the centralised RAB of € 6.2 million).
The consideration envisaged for the acquisition will be financed by cash flows from ordinary operations and the existing debt capacity of the Consortium Companies. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2022.
Acea’s perimeter of interest consists of concessions in 5 ATEMs, including 2 in Abruzzo, 2 in Molise and 1 in Campania, for a total of approximately 30,700 grid points. The Enterprise Value is € 35.8 million.
Gaia Rating gave Acea a score of 82 out of 100 in its overall assessment of ESG performance. Acea recorded a score increase for the fourth consecutive year, confirming its position among the best-performing companies in terms of sustainability.
In 2022, Acea also confirms its presence in the “Bloomberg Gender- Equality Index” (GEI), an international index that measures companies’ performance on gender equality through five criteria: female leadership, equal pay, inclusive culture, policies against
sexual harassment, brand positioning as a pro-women company.
The Group, included in the index for the third consecutive time, obtained a score of 80.67 (on a scale of 0-100) this year, placing it well above the averages for the utility sector (71.21) and the sample analysed (71.11), with a significant improvement of 10.18 points compared to the 2021 result.
Acea has launched a process for the definition of a green transition plan that will chart the path of the company, in line with the long-term goals of the 2030 Agenda, to lay the groundwork for the update of the Business Plan that will have a ten-year time period.