Atel succeeded last year in asserting its position among the leading group of European energy companies, Dr. Walter Bürgi, Chairman of the Board of Directors, said in his address to shareholders. Although competition on the European energy markets had never been so intense, Bürgi was nevertheless able to present to shareholders one of Atel's most successful financial years ever. The Chairman of the Board of Directors attributed the company's success primarily to the purposeful implementation of its strategy. Atel made notable progress in all three areas of its strategic focus last year. These areas are: the development of the energy trading business, investment in energy production to support the trading business and the development of a second core element of business in the field of energy services.
Security of supply guaranteed only by a well-regulated opening of the market
The past year was dominated by the political discussions concerning the opening of the Swiss energy market. Walter Bürgi did not venture to make any prediction concerning the outcome of the referendum on 22 September 2002 concerning electricity market legislation. He pointed out, rather, that Atel has for some time had to live with uncertainty for lack of a clear outlook as regards the legal framework. In order to operate successfully in spite of this, Atel had continually reduced its dependence on legislation, the Chairman of the Board of Directors continued. Bürgi concluded: "Switzerland needs a well-regulated liberalisation of the market and a clear legal framework in order to be able to maintain a high degree of security of supply." Only if this was assured would companies like Atel continue to invest in plants and networks, he added.
Atel supports electricity market legislation
Atel can live with the electricity market legislation, but the company is not happy about it. It was supporting the legislation, although the Directive and the Decree were unsatisfactory compromises, Bürgi explained. Their deficiencies were due to the protracted political tug-of-war which had resulted in dubious provisions, relating to the grid, in particular, being included in the Decree. "An equally unwelcome feature is the many costly concessions to environmental protection and regional and social policy in the legislation and the Decree", Bürgi stated at the General Meeting. It was more than questionable whether the expectations of falling electricity prices could be fulfilled on this basis.
No abandonment of nuclear energy
The second political issue raised by Walter Bürgi was nuclear energy. "Atel will continue to bank on nuclear energy", he said, confirming the company's commitment to CO2-free electricity generation. The atomic energy legislation retains nuclear energy as a significant element of Switzerland's power supply. Bürgi nonetheless saw the legislation as in need of considerable revision. For instance, Atel is opposed to a ban on reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. Atel is also demanding that the requirement for all nuclear plant operators to contribute jointly towards the industry's waste disposal costs be abandoned. "Abandoning nuclear energy would not be economically responsible at the present time", Bürgi concluded.
A successful financial year in 2001
Atel achieved its declared aims and sustainably increased the value of the company in the course of the 2001 financial year, as CEO Alessandro Sala reported in his review of the year. The Atel Group increased its turnover by 28 per cent to CHF 4.2 billion. Group profits reached CHF 165 million, 22 per cent above the previous year. Cash flow climbed to CHF 540 million, a rise of 16 per cent over the year 2000. The Atel Group's success had been possible only thanks to the excellent work done by its approximately 7,800 staff. More than ever, Atel was now a major energy company active throughout Europe, the CEO added. The company has started 2002 with a solid balance sheet and considerable financial strength. Alessandro Sala expects operating profits on par with those for the previous year. The first three months of the 2002 financial year have been a successful start, and confirm expectations.
Aare-Tessin Ltd. for Electricity Corporate Communications