Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Contact 1H earnings rise on improved industrial sales

Industrial sales and lower wholesale prices lift Contact 1H earnings

By Pattrick Smellie

Feb. 18 (BusinessDesk) – Contact Energy reported a 5 percent improvement in underlying earnings for the six months to Dec. 31, with improved sales to industrial and commercial customers and lower wholesale electricity prices offsetting lower mass market sales and weak overall demand.

Statutory net profit, which includes the non-cash impact of items such as unrealised changes in the value of financial instruments, rose 27 percent to $112 million, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisatisation and fair value movements (ebitdaf) was up 4 percent on the same period the previous year, at $264 million.

The company’s preferred measure for comparative performance, underlying earnings excluding one-off factors, showed a 5 percent rise to $97 million. It offered no guidance for the full year.

An unchanged 11 cents per share fully imputed dividend was declared, payable March 27. The company also announced it will be offering up to $250 million in retail bonds with a coupon interest rate of between 5.8 percent 6 percent, based on demand. Contact is close to completing a wider debt refinancing package, with future capital expenditure needs dropping dramatically after spending some $2 billion on new generation and upgrades over the last six years.

However, the company continues to experience significant delays in commissioning its new geothermal plant, at Te Mihi, with its hot well pumps not performing to specification. That will delay full commissioning until the end of this year, chief executive Dennis Barnes said in statements to the NZX.

“In the event that further modifications to the hot well pumps are required, the production impacts will be reduced by diverting steam to the existing Wairakei units,” he said. “The associated commercial matters are in the process of being resolved with the contractor.”

Geothermal generation of 1,087 Gigawatt hours was down 58GWh, largely due to Te Mihi commissioning outages. The new plant ran for a month at 159 Megawatts, close to rated capacity, in December.

Today’s announcements do not appear to make any provisions relating to the issues at Te Mihi.

Contact also continues not to contract for additional natural gas, although it booked a $33 million cost in the half year under review relating to the injection of gas into its Ahuroa storage facility, taking stored gas to 11.6 Petajoules. The company is building a nine kilometre pipeline from Ahuroa to its Stratford combined cycle gas turbine plant to reduce reliance on production facilities at Waihapa, recently sold to New Zealand Energy Corp. Reduced reliance on take-or-pay gas and greater use of hydro and spot market electricity purchases instead of its own gas-fired plant also helped contain costs.

The average wholesale price received for generation during the half was $47 per MWh, down $9 per MWh in the corresponding period.

Total revenue for the six months was $1.148 billion, down 5 percent on the corresponding period, while operating expenses were 8 percent lower at $884 million.

Mass market electricity sales fell 4 percent to total $496 million in the six months to Dec. 31, while commercial and industrial electricity sales rose 8 percent to $279 million. Competition for retail customers using both gas and electricity remained intense, and retail gas sales fell 4 percent to $35 million, although retail gas customer numbers rose by 1,500 in the half.

On the retail customer front, Contact described New Zealand’s electricity market “one of the most active … in the world”, with average monthly customer switches between retailers rising to 33,500, compared with 29,000 in the previous six months. Total retail electricity customers fell 4,000 between December 2012 and December 2013, although the rate slowed in the six months under review to 1,000.

Just over half the company’s customers are now on a discounted price deal, either its market-leading 22 percent prompt payment discount, or a fixed price, fixed term deal.

A “retail transformation” project, in planning since 2007, was delayed further “to ensure the business is fully prepared to provide customers with a seamless experience.”

“Contact welcomes the more stable competitive environment that should result from the partial privatisation of previously state-owned enterprises,” said Barnes. “While this will mean that the industry, including Contact, will be in the full glare of scrutiny from investors, customers and the community to maintain a reliable and competitive supply of energy, it is also expected this will ultimately be for the benefit of the customer with a lower cost industry driven by efficiency and innovation.”

The company continues to argue against the Labour and Green parties’ NZ Power proposal to create a single buyer and reduce wholesale electricity prices, saying there is “no evidence” that Contact earns “super-profits.”

“Savings of $500 million to $700 million are targeted, but (it’s) not clear they exist,” according to presentation slides with the result. “Over 50 percent of savings will be borne by the government from lower taxes and dividends.”


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


DIY: Kiwi Ingenuity And Masking Tape Saves Chick

Kiwi ingenuity and masking tape has saved a Kiwi chick after its egg was badly damaged endangering the chick's life. The egg was delivered to Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua 14 days ago by a DOC worker with a large hole in its shell and against all odds has just successfully hatched. More>>


Trade: Key To Lead Mission To India; ASEAN FTA Review Announced

Prime Minister John Key will lead a trade delegation to India next week, saying the pursuit of a free trade agreement with the protectionist giant is "the primary reason we're going" but playing down the likelihood of early progress. More>>



MYOB: Digital Signatures Go Live

From today, Inland Revenue will begin accepting “digital signatures”, saving businesses and their accountants a huge amount of administration time and further reducing the need for pen and paper in the workplace. More>>

Oil Searches: Norway's Statoil Quits Reinga Basin

Statoil, the Norwegian state-owned oil company, has given up oil and gas exploration in Northland's Reinga Basin, saying the probably of a find was 'too low'. More>>


Modern Living: Auckland Development Blowouts Reminiscent Of Run Up To GFC

The collapse of property developments in Auckland is "almost groundhog day" to the run-up of the global financial crisis in 2007/2008 as banks refuse to fund projects due to blowouts in construction and labour costs, says John Kensington, the author of KPMG's Financial Institutions Performance Survey. More>>


Health: New Zealand's First ‘No Sugary Drinks’ Logo Unveiled

New Zealand’s first “no sugary drinks logo” has been unveiled at an event in Wellington... It will empower communities around New Zealand to lift their health and wellbeing and send a clear message about the damage caused by too much sugar in our diets. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news