Eni SpA (NYSE:E), the Italian energy company, plans to stay in North Africa despite political instability in Egypt and Libya, and prefers to keep investing in African countries over Russia, the head of the company said Monday.
At a "Future of Energy" panel discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Eni chief Paolo Scaroni took an optimistic view on North Africa, saying, “so far so good.” Scaroni acknowledged Russia’s importance in developing hydrocarbons and said it could be a profitable venue, but he stressed that the company has been on the African continent for years. “Generally speaking, for us probably Africa is easier, because we know Africa very well,” Scaroni said. “We have been there for many, many years, while our presence in Russia is relatively new, so we are learning.”
Eni is the largest foreign producer of oil and gas in both Libya and Algeria and has assets in 19 African countries.
Countries faced with political instability like Egypt and Libya will find a way to exploit the resources no matter what, because it’s key to their future, Scaroni said.
“We are the biggest producer of oil and gas in Egypt, which makes me think that the people are aware that they need desperately to continue to produce oil and gas. Otherwise, the country, which is already in trouble, will become even more in trouble,” Scaroni said.
But Scaroni was more apprehensive about the future of Libya’s oil and gas because of the instability in the country since the fall of Muammar Gadhafi, the former despotic ruler of Libya, but he said he has to remain optimistic since the company is invested there.
“I cannot believe that the Libyans, who are wise, will throw away the wealth they have. Because 5 million Libyans, in a large country with 3,000 kilometers of coasts on the Mediterranean, and [the capacity to pump] 2 million barrels of oil [a day], they cannot destroy all this,” Scaroni said. “They'll find a way of exploiting their resources."