* New CEO sees no more surpises down the road
* Fund shareholders seeking meeting with directors -sources
* Eni CEO also probed in Algerian corruption case
(Adds source and management comments, Eni CEO probe)
By Stephen Jewkes
MILAN, Feb 7 Italian oil service group Saipem
does not expect any more nasty surprises to undermine
its profitability as it seeks to draw a line under a shock
profit warning last week that wiped billions off its value and
left investors incensed.
"We are very confident we don't have any surprises that can
hit us," Chief Executive Umberto Vergine told analysts on a
conference call on Thursday.
Europe's biggest oil service company, 43 percent owned by
oil major Eni, called its second conference call in
less than 10 days to clear the air after pressure from investors
and market watchdog Consob.
The group's new management team, led by Vergine, first spoke
to analysts on Jan. 29, the day it took the market by surprise
by slashing 2012 guidance and giving a profit target for 2013
almost 60 percent below the average market forecast.
That announcement, following close after news in December of
a corruption probe into Saipem's business in Algeria, has left
some investors cautious about the group's prospects.
In December investment fund Capital Research and Management
cut its stake to 1.3 percent from nearly 5 percent while earlier
this week Consob said Fidelity had cut its stake after the
Sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on
Thursday some Saipem fund shareholders were seeking a meeting
with independent board members later in the day to discuss
matters relating to the profit warning.
One bone of contention, the sources said, were orders to the
tune of 3.2 billion euros that Saipem announced on Thursday but
which the funds said could have been disclosed at the first
The company was not immediately available for a comment.
"They could have told us about these new contracts in last
week's call. And anyway, I'm presuming these new orders are the
ones Vergine said have lower margins," a Milan analyst said.
Saipem, which expects a significant rebound in its business
in 2014, has put the fall in profitability this year down to
lower margins on new contracts and fewer high-margin existing
In Thursday's conference call Vergine also said he did not
expect to make any provisions in regard to the probe by Milan
prosecutors into the Algeria corruption allegations.
"We have no evidence we may need provisions," he told
Vergine, a former manager at Eni, took over at Saipem after
the Algerian probe prompted the resignation of former
long-standing CEO Pietro Franco Tali.
The probe also cost the job of Eni Chief Financial Officer
Alessandro Bernini, seen by many analysts as the right hand man
of the oil major's CEO Paolo Scaroni.
On Thursday Eni, Italy's biggest listed company, said Milan
prosecutors had put Scaroni under investigation as part of the
probe, sending Eni shares sharply lower.
"Eni and its CEO declare themselves totally unrelated to the
object of investigation," the company said.
Saipen shares ended the day up 5.26 percent at 21.8 euros,
still below the 30.5 euros they traded at before the profit
warning. Eni shares were down 4.6 percent.
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Jennifer Clark; Editing by
Erica Billingham and Andrew Hay)