* Saipem sees 2012 net at around 1 bln euros
* Negotiating $1 bln contract in Iraq
* Shares outperform Milan blue (Adds CEO comments, shares)
By Stephen Jewkes
MILAN, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Italian oil service group Saipem said a positive outlook for orders should help it deliver its full-year profit targets, easing fears they might be cut and sending its shares higher.
The company said on Wednesday projects approved in areas such as West Africa as well as contracts won in October augured well for new orders in the final quarter.
“I‘m very positive on West Africa. There are a number of big discoveries there... Angola is a very promising market,” Saipem Chief Executive Pietro Franco Tali said on a conference call.
New orders in the first nine months of the year totalled 9.14 billion euros.
Asked about Iraq, Tali said there would be big demand there only when the country had solved the problem of building out its infrastructure.
But he said Saipem was negotiating a contract worth around $1 billion in Iraq. “It could be finalised by year end.”
Saipem, Europe’s biggest oil services group, expects full-year net profit of around 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) and earnings before interest and tax of about 1.6 billion.
Weak gas demand in Europe has led to a delay in some big energy development projects for operators and the construction of transport infrastructure into Europe.
Oil industry spending is expected to increase in 2012 but there is still widespread uncertainty whether the global economy might affect the timing in the awarding of scheduled projects.
“Big gas pipelines are where the uncertainty lies,” Tali said, adding it was not clear if the GALSI pipeline would go ahead or be postponed.
GALSI will transport Algerian gas to Italy through the island of Sardinia. Industry watchers said the project could be delayed since Algerian gas producer Sonatrach could have problems pricing long-term gas contracts with spot prices so depressed.
Shares in Saipem closed up 1.7 percent, outperforming the European oil and gas index which was up 0.7 percent.
“It’s short covering. The market was expecting guidance to be trimmed and it didn’t happen,” a Milan analyst said.
Saipem, controlled by Italian oil and gas group Eni , said net profit in the third quarter rose 10.7 percent to 249 million euros, short of a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S forecast of 258 million euros.
$1 = 0.7714 euros Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; editing by Mark Potter and Keiron Henderson