Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi this week made a whirlwind Gulf tour, snapping up exploration rights in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Bahrain and Oman. Until recently a negligible part of its portfolio, Eni wants the Middle East to provide 35% of its revenue.

For more than a year now, Eni has been snapping up a host of assets in the Middle East, transforming its position in the region. Whilst the Italian firm has long had a central role in North Africa, until recently, its only upstream asset in the Middle...