Eskom makes R3,6bn profit

POWER utility Eskom swung to a full-year profit from a record loss last year due to higher electricity demand and power tariffs.

But the parastatal remains in a debt spiral, which means the revenue cannot fund new projects.

In the financial year ended March this year Eskom recorded revenue of R71,2billion from R54,2billion previously.

It made a net profit of R3,6billion compared to a R9,6billion loss last year. This was due to a slight increase in power usage, but mainly to the 25percent tariff increase implemented this year.

Eskom chairperson Mpho Makwana said while Eskom was profitable, it was important that a cash surplus be generated to fund ongoing and new projects, which was not the case.

"We are starting to show a financial turnaround but we still face some challenges in the year to come. A clear recovery strategy is needed with a realistic timeline.

"What is encouraging is that we will be keeping the lights on well on our way towards sustainable security of supply," Makwana said.

Newly appointed financial director Paul O'Flaherty said all of the company's profit was being paid to service interest on debt taken for its multi-billion capital programme. He said the company's profit would have been much worse had it not been for a renegotiated derivative contract with BHP Billiton's Mozal Aluminium smelter in Mozambique.

The embedded derivative gain on the new contract signed in February was R2,3billion compared to a R9,5billion loss from the previous contract where BHP was paying less than half the cost to deliver electricity.

Over the next seven years Eskom will be spending around R693billion in capital expenditure which will be funded by 25percent annual tariff increase up to 2015 when increases will slow to 6percent for the following two years.

Makwana said Eskom had intensified cost-saving measures.

"We've committed to saving R20billion over seven years."

O'Flaherty said despite various loans by the government, The World Bank, The African Development Bank and a number of other institutions Eskom would still have a shortfall of R190billion up to 2017. - Additional reporting by Reuters and I-Net Bridge