* Loss due to 993 mln euro writedown on U.S. unit
* CEO confirms company to sell assets to boost balance sheet
* Talks over sale of Anselmo Energia unit continue - sources
* Moody’s puts company on credit watch
By Danilo Masoni and Paolo Biondi
MILAN/ROME, April 23 (Reuters) - Italy’s Finmeccanica confirmed on Tuesday plans to sell assets as it posted a net loss of 786 million euro ($1.02 billion) for 2012, mainly because of a writedown of the value of its U.S. defence electronics unit DRS.
In the first set of results under its new chief executive, Alessandro Pansa, the state-owned defence contractor said it could sell assets to beef up its balance sheet. It forecast a decline in revenue this year and broadly stable core profit.
Finmeccanica, Italy’s second-largest private sector employer, is undergoing a tough restructuring to focus on its core defence and aerospace activities and is battling to avoid credit rating downgrades. Later on Tuesday Moody’s put the company on credit watch for a potential downgrade.
In a statement, the company said the writedown on DRS, acquired for $5.2 billion in May 2008, was 993 million euros. In 2011 its net loss totalled 2.3 billion euros after a heavy provision for its Boeing Co 787 contract.
During a press conference, when asked about asset sales, Pansa said the group “will continue with our plans and will make an announcement at the right time”. He ruled out a sale of DRS.
Two people familiar with the situation said the sale of the company’s 55 percent stake in power engineering firm Ansaldo Energia was going ahead, after being slowed down by Italy’s political turmoil.
Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Tuesday that the South Korea’s Doosan was in advanced talks to buy Ansaldo Energia, which is party owned by the U.S. private equity firm First Reserve.
Finmeccanica said net debt was 3.373 billion euros at the end of 2012 and forecast free operating cash flow would rise to around 100 million euros this year from 89 million euros in 2012. Pansa said the group would return to profitability in 2013.
Delays in the asset disposal plan, drawn up by Pansa’s predecessor, had prompted S&P to cut Finmeccanica ratings to “junk,” while Fitch and Moody’s rate the company at investment grade.
The company’s 2012 results, initially due in March, were delayed after a bribery probe connected with the sale of 12 helicopters to Indian authorities escalated in February with the arrest of former Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi.
Finmeccanica helicopter unit AgustaWestland risks being blacklisted in India as a result of the probe. That would be another setback in a major emerging market, after talks with Embraer SA to make helicopters in Brazil ended without reaching a deal.
Finmeccanica shares have fallen 22 percent in the last three months. Starmine gives Finmeccanica a forward price/earnings ratio of 5.6 times, well below the range of 9.1 to 13.1 of its peers. On Tuesday the shares closed up 4.6 percent.