Italy Said to Set CEO Change at State-Owned Leonardo, Poste

  • Government likely to confirm Eni, Enel CEOs for another term
  • Head of defense unit is top candidate for Leonardo CEO job

Italy is planning to replace the chief executive officers at two of the listed companies it controls, Leonardo SpA and Poste Italiane SpA, while the holders of the top jobs at energy firms Eni SpA and Enel SpA are set to be confirmed for another term, according to people familiar with the matter, including a government official.

Fabrizio Giulianini, chief of Leonardo’s electronics and defense unit, is the front-runner to replace CEO Mauro Moretti, who was found guilty in a case involving a fatal 2009 train crash, said the people, who asked not to be named before an official announcement. Moretti, who has denied any wrongdoing in the accident, still has two levels of appeal in the case. Moretti said in an interview Wednesday he’d be “disappointed” if he wasn’t reappointed.

Mauro Moretti

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Poste CEO Francesco Caio, who lost out last year in a bid to buy asset manager Pioneer Investments from UniCredit SpA, will also be replaced, the people said. Matteo Del Fante, chief executive of Terna SpA, is the front-runner for the role, one of the people said.

Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and Enel’s Francesco Starace will likely be confirmed, the people said. Those decisions haven’t been finalized as the Italian government is required by law to submit its list for the boards of companies it controls by March 20, the people said. Representatives of the government, Eni, Enel, Poste and Leonardo declined to comment.

Shares Tumble

Leonardo shares fell as much as 2.2 percent to a low of 13.60 euros after Bloomberg News reported on the likely changes.

Eni’s “turnaround story and the potential reappointment of the board, which we expect on March 20, continue to underpin our investment case,” Mediobanca analyst Alessandro Pozzi wrote in note to clients.

The round of appointments at state-owned companies, a prerogative of the prime minister, is Paolo Gentiloni’s chance to make a mark on the future of a hefty chunk of Italian business.

A soft-spoken former diplomat who succeeded Matteo Renzi as premier in December following the latter’s referendum defeat, the 62-year-old Gentiloni gets to pick the heads of state-controlled companies like Eni, Enel, Poste and Leonardo, firms which together have a market value of 113 billion euros ($121 billion), accounting for a quarter of Italy’s FTSE MIB benchmark stock index.

Gentiloni still could make some changes in the plan, one of the people said. Shareholders at the companies must confirm the nominees for three-year terms. The finance ministry is the biggest shareholder in all four, with direct and indirect stakes of 30 percent in Eni, 24 percent in Enel, 32 percent in Leonardo and 65 percent in Poste, according to market regulator Consob.

— With assistance by Daniele Lepido, John Follain, and Angelina Rascouet

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