Lausanne – Thanks to its strong operating performance, the Alpiq Group generated net revenue of CHF 3.5 billion (2016: CHF 3.0 billion) and EBITDA before exceptional items of CHF 158 million (2016: CHF 239 million) in the first six months of 2017. The main drivers of net revenue are higher transaction volumes in the trading and sales business. EBITDA before exceptional items primarily stems from negative exchange rate effects caused by expiring hedges that were concluded before the decision taken by the Swiss National Bank to abolish the minimum EUR exchange rate as well as the unscheduled downtime at the Leibstadt nuclear power plant. The persistently low wholesale prices were also a factor. Electricity production in Switzerland is operating at a loss, whereas the entire results of operations were generated by the three growth areas: Digital & Commerce, Industrial Engineering and Building Technology & Design.
By contrast, systematic cost management and the successful use of market opportunities, particularly in the Digital & Commerce business division, had a positive effect on earnings.
The financial result is up on the previous year due to the lower interest charge caused by fewer financial liabilities, among other things. Net income before exceptional items amounts to CHF -5 million (2016: CHF 41 million).
Net debt was reduced further to CHF 726 million (as at 31 December 2016: CHF 856 million). The gearing ratio of net debt / EBITDA before exceptional items changed to 2.3 (31 December 2016: 2.2). The company also still has sound liquidity of CHF 1.5 billion (as at 31 December 2016: CHF 1.5 billion). The equity ratio amounted to a solid 40.9 % (as at 31 December 2016: 39.4 %).
Generation Switzerland operating at a loss
Despite the continued systematic cost management, the Generation Switzerland business division is significantly below the previous year. The main reasons for this are exclusively external: expiring currency hedges that were concluded before the decision taken by the Swiss National Bank to abolish the minimum EUR exchange rate and the associated delayed negative effects as well as the unscheduled downtime at the Leibstadt nuclear power plant. Alpiq systematically hedges its energy production against price and currency fluctuations for future periods in advance on a rolling three-year basis on average. This means that the consequences of the decision of the Swiss National Bank in January 2015 to discontinue the minimum EUR exchange rate have only now become apparent in the first six months of 2017, as expected.
The persistently low electricity prices on the wholesale markets also played a role. The asymmetric regulation means that the electricity market in Switzerland is split: Alpiq operates as a pure electricity producer in the liberalised market and sells its Swiss electricity at wholesale prices that continue to be below the costs of production. Alpiq therefore faces competition and is not comparable with electricity companies that sell their energy to end customers bound by a monopoly in the non-liberalised market with a state-guaranteed profit.
Opening up the hydropower portfolio suspended
The Board of Directors has decided to suspend the process of opening up Alpiq’s hydropower portfolio to investors. By opening up the hydropower portfolio, which was communicated at the beginning of March 2016, Alpiq had intended to reduce its dependency on wholesale market electricity prices and thereby restore the onerous hydropower production to a more solid foundation that offers better future viability.
The main reason for the suspension was the fact that the three criteria defined for the transaction – price, contractual conditions and transaction security – were not all fulfilled. In particular, potential investors were not prepared to share the burden of the unforeseeable regulatory risks. Recent political discussions surrounding the need for action in the area of hydropower also played a role. Wholesale prices, which have been below production costs for many years now in the partially liberalised market, make it impossible for pure electricity producers to operate economically with hydropower.
At the end of April 2017, the National Council’s Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy Committees (ESPEC) examined suitable measures for immediate action in detail as a transitional solution until the market is fully liberalised and recommended these to the National Council. According to the National Council, further issues need to be clarified and it referred the measures back to ESPEC for in-depth analysis. Alpiq will continue to contribute to these energy policy industry discussions in a constructive and transparent way in order to provide policy-makers with a better overall view of the economic situation for hydropower.
Digital & Commerce, Industrial Engineering and Building Technology & Design growth areas generate entire results of operations
Special emphasis was placed on implementing the process to open up the Digital & Commerce, Industrial Engineering as well as Building Technology & Design growth areas for investors, which was communicated at the beginning of March 2017. Alpiq has now made the necessary organisational adjustments and created the management structures required so that the different business models can be advanced in future in a targeted way while taking the individual growth dynamic into account.
The three business divisions are based on industry criteria and characterised by an integrated range of services that suit the needs of customers and the market along the entire value chain, their strong geographical presence and use of pioneering technological solutions. More than 90 % of Alpiq’s roughly 8,500 employees currently work in these growth areas. All three growth areas maintained their positions in a competitive and challenging market environment and generated the entire results of operations in the first six months of the year.
Digital & Commerce well positioned
The Digital & Commerce business division exceeded the previous year. This was due on the one hand to the successful trading business in Europe and on the other to Alpiq again optimally using its flexible power plant portfolio. In the area of demand response services and peak load management, Alpiq further established its market position thanks to having companies ranging from Flexitricity to Xamax and GridSense in its product portfolio.
Alpiq expanded its business as part of the strategy implementation and now leads the market as an energy service provider in Germany selling flexibility services to its customers in the form of decentralised generation units and renewable energies. As a technology corporation, Alpiq developed new products and services in the area of digitalisation. At present, Alpiq is already successfully working in this business of the future and leads the energy sector in the growth market of self-learning algorithms.
Industrial Engineering: stable contributions from thermal production and RES
The Industrial Engineering business division made the biggest contribution to the Alpiq Group’s results of operations. The thermal power plant portfolio as well as production from the regulated, new renewable energies (RES) continued to deliver steady earnings in the first six months of the year.
The acquisition of Diamond Lite S.A., the Swiss specialist for electricity-powered hydrogen gas production plants, opens up new business opportunities for Alpiq. We see further growth potential in the area of dismantling nuclear facilities, particularly in Germany, where the company already plays a part in significant nuclear power plant dismantling projects. For instance at the Würgassen, Obrigheim, Isar 1, Neckarwestheim 1 and Philippsburg 1 nuclear power plants.
Building Technology & Design: encouraging order situation
The Building Technology & Design business division recorded stable results of operations, reporting growth in both revenue and order intake. As the market leader for building technology, Alpiq provides its customers with sustainable and fully integrated end-to-end solutions for buildings and plants on a one-stop-shop basis.
In addition to the volume business, Alpiq won new orders in Switzerland and Europe. Alpiq focuses on digitalisation for building technology: A new Roche’s laboratory building will be planned and realised entirely using the efficient BIM (building information modeling) method. In Zurich, Alpiq installed state-of-the-art building technology in the energy efficient large-scale project Westlink. Alpiq is also expanding strategic partnerships, such as the solar power cooperation with IKEA, in a targeted way and strengthening its collaboration with Switzerland Tourism for e-mobility with the E-Grand Tour of Switzerland.
Moreover, Alpiq cemented its position as a leading infrastructure specialist in the area of transportation technology. Its expertise is underlined by the continued good order backlog, even after the completion of the project of the century – the Gotthard Base Tunnel – and subsequent orders such as the high-speed rail from Milan to Genoa and the cross-country CEVA train route from Geneva to Annemasse.
Alpiq expects results of operations in 2017 to be down on the previous year. This is attributable to the Generation Switzerland business division, where the negative exchange rate effects and continued low wholesale prices impact Swiss electricity production. The regulatory framework conditions continue to distort competition in the area of Swiss electricity production. Alpiq will continue to work to ensure that hydropower can be operated competitively in the liberalised electricity market. The short-term recovery of spot prices cannot distract from the fact that wholesale prices are likely to remain below production costs for the next few years.
Alpiq anticipates a continued positive development in the growth areas. Results of operations in 2017 will therefore be driven by the profitable business divisions Digital & Commerce, Industrial Engineering and Building Technology & Design. The company will therefore focus on these three growth areas and drive forward the process to open them up for investors as planned. With the three business divisions, investors gain access to an attractive portfolio of innovative, profitable businesses with growth potential.
Top priority remains maintaining the company’s ability to access capital markets, continuing to secure sound liquidity and further reducing net debt.
You can find more information about Alpiq at www.alpiq.com