France's Engie to exit 20 countries, wary of big mergers and acquisitions

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French gas and power utility Engie will pull out of about 20 countries in the next three years and target new markets in developing nations, while probably steering clear of big acquisitions, its chief executive said.

Isabelle Kocher said that as Engie focuses its investments on energy services, renewable energy and infrastructure in the next three years, it will sell another 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) worth of assets. It has sold 14 billion euros of mainly coal-related assets in the past three years.

Engie shares fell more than four percent as weaker-than-expected 2018 earnings overshadowed the strategy announcements.

At a presentation in London, Kocher said she wants to simplify the sprawling firm, present in some 70 countries.

She said Engie would focus on 20 countries where it is well established as well as on 30 metropolitan areas mainly in Southeast Asia and Africa where huge power needs can bring earnings growth.

CFO Judith Hartmann added that after Engie had simplified its business lines in the past three years, it now wants to simplify in terms of geography.

She said Engie would exit from some 20 countries with too much political risk, or where it cannot reach sufficient scale to be a significant player.

Investment will focus on three areas, she said, notably developed countries with high environmental sensibility in Western Europe, North America, as well as some Asian countries such as Australia and Singapore, where customers want renewable energy, infrastructure renewal and sophisticated energy solutions.

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