Saipem unable to give guidance after coronavirus, oil collapse

MILAN, April 23 (Reuters) - Italian oil services group Saipem said on Thursday it could not offer new guidance for the year because of the highly unstable environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic and falling oil prices.

Last week the group pulled its 2020 outlook saying the pandemic might trigger a sharp fall in demand and a delay in projects.

On Thursday the company said it swung to a net loss in the first quarter of 269 million euros ($291.30 million), from a profit of 21 million euros the previous year, blaming a writedown of offshore drilling assets.

It said it was looking at cost reductions and would cut investments this year by 20-25% from a previous estimate of around 600 million euros.

Saipem said in its results statement that a dramatic and widespread drop in demand for services triggered by the coronavirus together with volatile energy prices had led to a revision of future investment plans by its clients.

Oil markets are in unprecedented territory with the collapse of crude prices prompting most oil majors to slash investments and defer projects to conserve cash.

Saipem, controlled by Italian state lender CDP and oil major Eni, said the unexpected deterioration of the market and rejigged investment plans by its clients had led it to write down offshore drilling assets by 260 million euros.

It also said it had approved a one-year renewal of the non-convertible notes issue programme for up to 3 billion euros, of which 1.5 billion euros remained outstanding. ($1 = 0.9234 euros) (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Susan Fenton)