MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's biggest utility Enel (>> Enel S.p.A.) said any major deals in the European industry would have to wait until new industry rules were in place after elections this year in France and Germany.
German peer RWE (>> RWE AG) this week fuelled merger talk in Europe's crisis-hit power sector, saying it was weighing options including tie-ups with rivals and possibly selling part of its stake in its Innogy (>> Innogy SE) renewables unit.
However Enel Chief Executive Francesco Starace played down the prospects of his company doing a major deal at this point.
"No more big plants, no more big M&A," Starace said, signalling a price tag for potential acquisitions of between 1.0 and 1.5 billion euros.
In the first half of this year Enel expects to spend 1.2 billion euros on deals, mainly the purchase of Brazilian power distribution company Celg-D.
Enel, which paid around 39 billion euros (33.9 billion pounds) to take control of Spanish utility Endesa (>> Endesa SA) eight years ago, said in November it would reinvest about 2 billion euros of proceeds from asset sales in bolt-on acquisitions.
"Large-scale M&A is potentially value-destructive and we don't like it," Starace, who has been in his current role since May 2014, told financial analysts.
Falling power prices, oversupply and a boom in renewable energy have prompted traditional utilities to reshape their businesses, fuelling speculation the sector is now ripe for consolidation.
Starace saw scope for some activity further down the line.
"There will be some opportunities in Europe after the French and German elections and when Europe's new regulatory framework is in place," he told reporters on a media call.
France will elect a new president in May and Germany is set to hold a national election in September.
Enel, Europe's biggest utility in terms of customers, is looking to its grids and green power businesses to drive growth, especially in emerging markets.
It has pledged to upgrade its networks to prepare for a digital era and take advantage of the "Internet of things", where appliances like washing machines and fridges can be managed remotely.
Earlier on Friday it raised its dividend and confirmed its targets for this year after posting a 12.3 percent rise in net profit for 2016.
Net ordinary profit for last year came in at 3.243 billion euros, in line with an analyst consensus and its own target.
Goldman Sachs, which has a 'Buy' recommendation on the stock, said the results indicated a strong year ahead.
"We ... see Enel as one of the fastest growing utilities in the space," analyst Alberto Gandolfi said in a note.
At 1140 GMT, Enel shares were down 1.8 percent while the European utility index <.SX6P> was down 0.5 percent.
($1 = 0.9313 euros)
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Keith Weir)
By Stephen Jewkes