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Trustpower affirms guidance as wholesale prices stay high

Trustpower affirms earnings guidance as wholesale prices stay high; notes low hydro levels

By Paul McBeth

Jan. 19 (BusinessDesk) - Trustpower affirmed annual earnings guidance, having raised its outlook three times this financial year on strong wholesale electricity prices, and noted the low hydro lake levels are threatening to trigger a high-priced event in 2018.

The Tauranga-based company retained its forecast for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and fair value adjustments to be between $255 million and $270 million in the year ending March 31, although it now expects the final outcome will be around the mid-point of the range, it said in a statement. Trustpower raised that guidance three times this financial year citing favourable trading conditions.

That forecast relies on long-run average generation volumes for the rest of the year, wholesale prices staying in line with forward pricing, normal temperatures and consumption and a customer base of between 255,000 and 260,000, including 90,000 to 95,000 telecommunications customers.

The electricity generator-retailer reported an average spot price of electricity generated of $88 per megawatt hour in the December quarter, up from $46/MWh a year earlier, and taking the year-to-date average to $89/MWh. New Zealand generation was down 8 percent to 484 Gigawatt hours from a year earlier, although the year-to-date tally was still up 14 percent at 1,809 GWh.

Chief financial officer Kevin Palmer noted the lower than normal average hydro storage, saying "this has increased the likelihood of a prolonged high priced event in 2018" and that Trustpower has "taken a prudent approach to managing our exposure to this risk."

Trustpower's retail electricity customer numbers were unchanged at 273,000 in the December quarter from September, though down from 279,000 a year earlier. It added 5,000 telecommunication customers in the quarter, taking it to 80,000 and up from 73,000 a year earlier.

The company is eyeing up the retail customer base of King Country Energy and has teamed up with King Country Electric Power Trust to buy out the remaining shareholders.

Trustpower shares gained 0.2 percent to $5.82, and have gained 24 percent over the past 12 months.

(BusinessDesk)

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