Plenitude's IPO has to happen sooner or later
Applying a renewable energy multiple to a business still reliant on profits from gas made little sense
Europe's equity market has shown that it is unwilling to apply a renewable energy multiple to a business that still relies on gas for much of its profits.
Italian energy major Eni has withdrawn the IPO of Plenitude, the division which houses its renewables and gas distribution assets, hoping for better markets come the autumn.
There was a path to a deal, but Eni was understood to be unhappy with the valuation on offer. Russia cutting the supply of gas to the EU in response to sanctions, which directly affected Eni over the past fortnight, proved the final nail in the coffin.
Like other big oil companies, Eni needs to execute its energy transition strategy. Funding renewable energy growth at a fossil fuel multiple is far from ideal, so there is a pressing case for Plenitude to become a separate public company.
But at the same time, Plenitude still relies on supplying gas, plenty of which it gets from Russia, to retail customers for much of its profits. It should be valued accordingly.
The market will reward companies that green their activities over time. Eni could have adopted a similar strategy to De Nora, also a jumble of old and new businesses, including a nascent green hydrogen enterprise.
De Nora steeply discounted its IPO to get the deal over the line and is now free to focus on the future and deliver results as a listed company. When Plenitude comes back to the market, possibly in the autumn, it will need to be more flexible on valuation.