* Q1 held back by weak Latam, Spain business
* Q1 core earnings flat on year, beat consensus
* CEO Starace slated to become CEO of Enel in May (Recasts lead, adds detail, CEO quote)
MILAN, May 7 (Reuters) - Enel Green Power’s business in North America helped offset weakness in Latin America and Spain in the first quarter as Italy’s biggest renewable energy company gears up for a top management change later this month.
Core earnings in the first three months edged up 0.2 percent to 481 million euros ($670 million), beating a Reuters analyst poll of 464 million euros.
Chief Exective Francesco Starace, who headed the company since it was set up in 2008, will leave Enel Green Power to take the reins of state-controlled utility Enel which owns 69 percent of the renewables company.
The Enel board is expected to appoint Starace CEO after the utility’s shareholder meeting on May 22. After that the board of Enel Green Power will appoint its own new CEO.
The successor of Starace will inherit a company which has started to shift away from its core markets of Italy and Spain to countries with abundant resources, good growth prospects and reliable regulations.
In its recent business plan the company said more than 70 percent of the 6.1 billion euros it plans to spend to 2018 will be focused on emerging countries.
New markets - which formerly included Colombia, Peru, Turkey, South Africa and Morocco - now include Uruguay, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Egypt and Russia.
“The positive Q1 results, in line with announced targets, confirm our company’s strategic decision to pursue geographical and technological diversification,” Starace said.
The company, which generates electricity from a wide range of renewable sources including wind and solar, said installed capacity at the end of March was 8,900 megawatts, 800 megawatts more than a year ago.
The group, which is present in 16 countries, aims to install an overall 13,400 megawatts of capacity by 2018.
World electricity demand is expected to grow 60 percent by 2030, requiring an 80 percent increase in generation capacity.
Net debt at the end of March was 5.547 billion euros. ($1 = 0.7177 Euros) (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; editing by Francesca Landini and William Hardy)