(Bloomberg) -- Eni SpA increased its planned share buyback this year to €1.6 billion ($1.7 billion) due to stronger cash flow, while reporting profit in the first quarter that matched estimates. 

While earnings at the Italian energy giant’s natural gas business were down significantly from a a year earlier, profit at its exploration and production, or upstream, unit proved resilient and the company raised its expectations for oil prices this year.

“The results put the company firmly on track to exceed the full-year earnings and cash flow guidance as we work to efficiently grow the upstream,” Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi said in a statement.

Shares of the company rose 0.2% to €15.55 euros as of 9:06 a.m. in Milan. 

Eni sees cash flow from operations before working capital at replacement cost this year of €14 billion, up from €13.5 billion previously, allowing an increase of 45% in its buyback from the €1.1 billion announced earlier this year, according to the statement. Brent crude is seen at $86 a barrel this year, up from $80 previously. 

Adjusted net income was €1.58 billion in the three months to March 31, according to the statement on Wednesday. That was down from €2.91 billion a year earlier but slightly above the average analyst estimate of €1.57 billion. 

At Eni’s gas business, adjusted operating profit was €325 million, down from €1.42 billion a year earlier due to lower prices and fewer trading opportunities, the company said. Earnings at the exploration and production division were stable at €3.32 billion. Oil and gas production rose by 5% to 1.74 million barrels of oil equivalent a day in the period. 

Renewables unit Plenitude posted an increase in proforma adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 48% to €346 million after increasing in production and performance in retail markets, the company said. 

“Eni has reported a resilient set of results today,” RBC analyst Biraj Borkhataria said in a note. “Key drivers of the earnings beat were higher earnings from Plenitude, with Eni citing higher retail commodity margins, as well as the ramp up in its renewable portfolio.”

Eni is reorganizing itself in a strategic plan, intending to split off its biochemical business Novamont and create a unit for carbon capture activities to seize momentum in the energy transition. It also plans to sell a stake or list its refining and fuel unit Enilive. Eni agreed to combine its U.K. upstream assets with Ithaca Energy on Tuesday.

The company’s debt may rise faster than expected after a larger-than-usual €1.9 billion working capital outflow in first quarter, said Borkhataria.

(Updates with details from results and analyst comment)

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