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Enel confirms 2023 guidance, enters press blackout on nominations

A logo of Italian multinational energy company Enel is seen in Milan

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's biggest utility, Enel, confirmed its full-year guidance and entered a press blackout period ahead of a May 10 shareholder vote on a challenged board shake-up.

The group, whose main shareholder is Italy's Treasury with nearly a 24%-stake, is at the centre of a governance row that will be decided at the AGM scheduled for next Wednesday.

The Treasury has proposed a new management, putting forward a slate of six new candidates and ousting current Enel CEO Francesco Starace, who has been at the helm since 2014.

Hedge fund Covalis, which holds around 1% in Enel, presented an alternative list of nominees, criticising the process under which the government picked its candidates.

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In a statement issued on Wednesday after its first quarter results the group said the board had banned interviews, statements, or any communication on the nominations until May 10 in order to preserve the group's neutrality on the issue.

Starace clarified he has no intention of remaining for another term, the board added.

On the financial side, Enel's ordinary earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in the first quarter rose 22% to 5.5 billion euros above an analyst consensus of 5.4 billion euros.

Net debt at the end of March was 58.9 billion euros, down from 60.1 billion euros at the end of last year.

Starace described the results in the first three months of 2023 as outstanding and said the group had already exceeded half of its 21 billion euro ($23 billion) asset sale target unveiled last November.

The state-controlled group intends to focus its business on the core markets of Italy, Spain, the United States, Brazil, Chile and Colombia.

($1 = 0.9053 euros)

(Reporting by Francesca Landini Editing by Gianluca Semeraro, Mark Potter and Sandra Maler)