MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s Prysmian could extend the time horizon of a planned increase in investment to fund new growth opportunities and production capacity if the demand is there, CFO Pier Francesco Facchini told Reuters.

Facchini said a differentiated business mix was helping the world’s largest cablemaker generate enough cash to fund the ongoing increase in investment and growth, without building up debt.

“The energy business is now our cash cow, but still with long term opportunities,” the CFO said in an interview with Reuters in the group’s headquarters in Milan.

The transition to green energy has led to the expansion and upgrade of power grids and generation from renewable resources, boosting demand for the company’s cables.

Prysmian’s energy business, which accounted for around 75% of the group’s sales and almost two thirds of its core earnings last year, supplies cables for medium voltage power distribution networks and for resident and commercial properties.

“We don’t need to invest a lot in all of our business segments, we need to invest a lot in projects. We also need to invest selectively in some particular areas of our energy business and of our telecom business,” Facchini said.

Prysmian’s project business supplies cabling for land and submarine power interconnections and offshore winds farms.

Presenting its latest results, the group this month said its annual capital expenditure would rise to up to 500 million euros in 2022-2025 from an annual average of around 270 million euros ($293 million) in the 2018-2021 period.

Expenditure already reached around 470 million euros last year and will settle at a “cruise speed” of 500 million euros a year in the 2023-2025 period, Facchini said.

“Beyond that horizon, if energy and digital transition trends should strengthen or extend further, a likely scenario is that we structurally maintain this capex levels,” Facchini said.

He added that Prysmian could scale back capex to lower levels should markets slow down.

A global trend towards digitalisation and the expansion of online services is also supporting demand for Prysmian’s products.

Analysts at JPMorgan said the European cable sector was a key beneficiary of broader trends such as electrification, energy transition and growth in data consumption, which led to good operational results in the past couple of years.

“We expect the growth to accelerate further as new investments kick in, also supported by U.S. IRA and CHIPS Act” subsidy schemes, they said in a report.

In terms of geography, Prysmian mainly needs to focus its investments in North America and in Europe for its project business, Facchini said.

He added he saw no scope for major new M&A deals, after Prysmian bought Netherlands’ Draka in 2011 and U.S.-based General Cable in 2018.

“There are no more large competitors out there. So, necessarily, our M&A efforts will target more deals with small or medium-sized companies, in specific business segments or specific geographies,” he said.

($1 = 0.9226 euros)

(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Christina Fincher)