November 6, 2018 / 7:47 PM / in 9 days

UPDATE 2-Italy's Enel plays down talk of move for Colombia's Electricaribe

(Recasts, adds CFO comments)

MILAN, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Italy’s Enel played down talk it was interested in buying Colombian distributor Electricaribe after citing acquisitions as one of the reasons for raising its 2018 debt guidance on Tuesday.

Enel CFO Alberto De Paoli told analysts the utility had paid a fee to look at the books of Electricaribe but said this made sense for a power company operating in the area.

“A lot of things have to happen before we have a clear interest in it,” he said, adding that many regulatory and legal changes would first need to take place.

Recent press reports have said that Enel could be interested in buying Electricaribe. Europe’s biggest utility is one of the leading players in Latin America, where it makes more than a quarter of its core earnings.

It agreed in June to spend almost $1.5 billion to buy a majority stake in Brazilian power company Eletropaulo and also said it could spend more than $2.3 billion to buy a Latin American fibre company.

On Thursday it said its acquisition of Eletropaulo and restructuring costs in Chile had helped to bump up its debt pile at the end of September to about 43 billion euros ($49 billion).

It said it now expected net debt this year to be between 41 billion and 42 billion euros, about 1 billion to 2 billion euros higher its previous forecast.

But the group, one of the world’s biggest listed green energy companies, said it expects higher cash flow this year and reiterated core earnings guidance of 16.2 billion euros.

De Paoli said the group was working on another deal to sell assets but was not sure if it could be closed before year end.

Enel, which also controls Spanish utility Endesa, said core earnings (EBITDA) in the first nine months of the year rose 6.2 percent to 12 billion euros, boosted by its green energy business and better margins in Brazil after the Eletropaulo acquisition.

“Renewables were once again the basis for the group’s positive performance while geographic diversification was important to cope with the negative trend in certain currencies,” CEO Francesco Starace said. ($1 = 0.8757 euros) (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes Editing by Edmund Blair and David Goodman)

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