Tag: Financial Reports

Understanding the pounds behind the power

Editor’s note: On 21st September 2017 the Board announced that Will Gardiner would replace Dorothy Thompson as Chief Executive, Drax Group as of 1st January 2018. Read the announcement to the London Stock Exchange. This story was written by Will two months prior to that announcement and remains unedited below.

The UK electricity market used to be simpler. Coal, gas and nuclear plants generated energy and fed power into the National Grid. Retail companies then delivered that power to homes and businesses across the country thanks to regional distribution network operators. Today, it’s not as simple. The energy system of Great Britain has grown more complex – it needed to.

The push to lower carbon emissions led to the introduction of an array of different power generation technologies and fuels to the energy mix. These all generate power in different ways, at different times and in different conditions. Added to this are government schemes that have changed how this is all funded. In short, our electricity market is now more complex.

Drax Group has transformed itself to align with this new system. It is now an energy company with complementary operations across its supply chain – sourcing fuel, generating 17% of Great Britain’s renewable power and then selling much of that electricity directly to business customers in the retail market. This has fundamentally changed both how we do business and the financial mechanisms behind the business.

Where are we now?

Drax’s financial and operating strategies are very much inter-linked. Shifting how we generate energy changes how we generate revenue. The company is structured according to a set of distinct business segments, each of which is treated in a slightly different way.

The generation business

Drax has adapted its business model to the UK government’s regulatory framework, which through successive administrations has broadly promoted investment in renewable and low carbon power generation. Three of our six electricity generation units – accounting for 68% of our output in the first half of 2017 – have been upgraded from coal to produce renewable electricity from sustainable compressed wood pellets. These units are a core part of Britain’s renewable energy mix. Guaranteed income from the third unit conversion has given us a significantly higher degree of earnings visibility and reduced our exposure to commodity prices.

H1, 2017: 10.7 TWh total generation; 7.3 TWh biomass generation

Our coal generation units no longer provide 24/7 baseload electricity. This means we primarily use our coal generation as a support system. When the grid needs it we can ramp up and down coal generation responding to demand and ancillary service needs. Our renewable generation units do this too. Ultimately, however, our long-term goal is to convert the remaining coal units – either to renewables or to gas. Our Research and Innovation team is currently looking into how we might be able to do this, but early indications show that coal-to-gas conversion could be an attractive option for delivering flexible and reliable generation capacity for the UK.

Drax Power is doing well and generated £137m of EBITDA in the first half of this year, a £51m increase compared to the first half of 2016.

We are confident about the projected growth of our power generation business to £300 million EBITDA by 2025. That plan is aided by our move into rapid response gas – a technology that can meet urgent needs of a power system that includes an increasing amount of weather-dependent renewables. Two of the four rapid response gas projects we’re developing are ready to bid for 15-year capacity market contracts this coming February. They are designed to start up from cold faster than coal and combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) units. These small-yet-powerful plants will respond to short-term power market price signals and be capable of providing other, ancillary services to further enhance security of supply.

These projects should add an attractive additional source of earnings to our generation business. They also will have attractive characteristics, as a significant element of their earnings will come from the capacity market – guaranteed government income for 15 years.

The retail business

We directly serve the retail market through Haven Power, which supplies renewable electricity primarily to industrial and commercial customers. Last week we announced that Haven Power was able to break-even six months ahead of schedule. Retail is an area we’re growing, and in February 2017 we acquired Opus Energy, the largest non-domestic UK energy company by meters installed outside the Big Six. This has had a marked effect – today we’re the largest challenger B2B energy retailer in the UK.

There is a healthy and regular annuity coming in through the existing retail business, and we believe this can generate £80 million of EBITDA by 2025, which, together with our growing biomass supply business, will make up a third of our earnings. We demonstrated good progress in the first half of the year, earning £11m of EBITDA.

The biomass business

Our two operational wood pellet manufacturing plants in Louisiana and Mississippi are progressing well. They are both still ramping up to full production and have seen marked improvements in pellet quality and production.

We are looking to grow our US business and as part of this we’ll need to build on the recent addition of LaSalle BioEnergy with further acquisitions. Expansion will grow our capacity for the self-supply of pellets from 15% to 30% of Drax Power Station’s requirements, adding an additional one million tonnes of production.

In the second half of 2017, we expect the profitability of Drax Biomass to increase. LaSalle will be commissioned in the first half of 2018 and reach capacity in 2019.

What’s next?

The energy landscape continues to change and we’ll need to change with it. Phasing out coal entirely is priority number one. For this we’ll continue to look at options. How and when we can convert more units to sustainable biomass depends on trials that we are conducting at Drax Power Station during 2017-18. The right government support would also make further conversions cost effective.

We also recognise that it’s important to look at alternative possibilities for our remaining coal units. This is why we are seeking planning permission to convert one or more of our 645 MW (megawatt) coal units to 1,300 MW of gas. Such an upgrade would be at a discount to a new-build, combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power station of equivalent capacity. And that’s simply because we would use much of the existing infrastructure and equipment.

Another major prospect is in the technology space and so we’re continuing to invest in research and innovation. Batteries and storage are a huge opportunity for us – both in how they could benefit our retail customers, and how they could provide solutions for large-scale centralised energy systems. In short, it’s an area with huge potential. We welcome the government’s recent initiatives designed to stimulate the development of battery technology, as well as encourage the use of electric vehicles.

Drax has gone through a period of considerable change and that will continue as we meet the UK’s low-carbon energy demands. We are improving the quality of our earnings, reducing our exposure to commodities, and positioning to take advantage of future opportunities. As we told investors in June, if we deliver on these plans, we can expect >£425 million of EBITDA in 2025.

Half year results for the six months ended 30 June 2017

RNS Number : 4383L
Drax Group PLC
(Symbol: DRX)

Six months ended 30 June

H1 2017

H1 2016

Key financial performance measures

EBITDA (£ million)

121

70

Underlying earnings (£ million)

9

17

Underlying earnings per share (pence)

2.2

4.2

Total dividends (pence per share)

4.9

2.1

Net cash from operating activities (£ million)

197

151

Net debt (£ million)

372

85

Statutory accounting measures

(Loss) / profit before tax (£ million)

(83)

184

Reported basic (loss) / earnings per share (pence)

(17)

37

 

Financial and Operational Highlights

  • EBITDA of £121 million, an increase of £51 million on H1 2016
    • Strong operational performance
    • Improved earnings from renewable generation
    • Profitable and growing business to business (B2B) retail operation – Opus Energy and Haven Power
  • Statutory loss before tax includes unrealised losses related to foreign currency hedging of £65 million
  • Strong cash flows and balance sheet
    • Refinancing complete and capital allocation policy confirmed
  • Interim dividend of £20 million, representing 40% of the expected full year – £50 million

Strategic Highlights and Outlook

  • Focus on higher quality earnings with targeted investment in long-term growth opportunities
  • Good progress with strategic initiatives
    • Opus Energy and LaSalle Bioenergy acquisitions completed H1 2017, integration proceeding well
    • Focus on research and innovation, including development of options for future generation
  • Maintaining operational excellence across the Group
  • 2017 expectations unchanged, including c.2x net debt to EBITDA at year end

Dorothy Thompson, Chief Executive of Drax Group plc, said:

“We have made good progress with our strategy during the first half of 2017, acquiring Opus Energy and a third compressed wood pellet plant, in addition to refinancing and implementing a new dividend policy.

“Central to our strategy is the delivery of targeted growth through deploying our expertise across our markets and, in so doing, diversifying, growing and improving the quality of earnings whilst reducing exposure to commodity market volatility.

“Delivering reliable renewable electricity remains at the heart of our business. We continue to produce at record levels, helping to keep the UK’s electricity system secure and supplying our customers through our retail business. With the right conditions, we can do even more. We are progressing our four new rapid response gas power projects and our research and innovation work has identified potentially attractive options to repurpose our remaining coal assets.

“We continue to play a vital role in the UK’s energy infrastructure and our strategy is helping to change the way energy is generated, supplied and used for a better future.”

NOTES FOR ANALYSTS AND EDITORS

See: https://otp.tools.investis.com/clients/uk/drax1/rns/regulatory-story.aspx?cid=1607&newsid=892848

Chief Executive comments on half year results

We have made good progress with our strategy during the first half of 2017, acquiring Opus Energy and a third compressed wood pellet plant, in addition to refinancing and implementing a new dividend policy.

Central to our strategy is the delivery of targeted growth through deploying our expertise across our markets and, in so doing, diversifying, growing and improving the quality of earnings whilst reducing exposure to commodity market volatility.

Delivering reliable renewable electricity remains at the heart of our business. We continue to produce at record levels, helping to keep the UK’s electricity system secure and supplying our customers through our retail business. With the right conditions, we can do even more. We are progressing our four new rapid response gas power projects and our research and innovation work has identified potentially attractive options to repurpose our remaining coal assets.

We continue to play a vital role in the UK’s energy infrastructure and our strategy is helping to change the way energy is generated, supplied and used for a better future.

Related documents:

 

Chief Executive comments on capital markets event and trading update

Britain’s energy market is changing. Drax has embraced these changes with a strategy which will help change the way energy is generated, supplied and used for a better future.

Through our operations in retail, generation and biomass supply we expect to deliver a significant increase in high quality, visible, contracted earnings for the Group.

With the optimisation of our existing asset portfolio combined with acquisitions across our markets the strategy is already delivering, allowing the Group to create long-term opportunities in all areas of the business.

We are confident in the strategy and our ability to deliver high quality earnings, growth and value for shareholders, supported by a strong financial model and clear capital allocation policy, including a sustainable dividend that we expect to grow from a level of £50m in 2017.


Further information:

Capital markets day and trading update


Image: Artist’s impression of a Drax rapid-response gas power station with planning permission

Preliminary results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2016

RNS Number : 0194X
Drax Group PLC
(Symbol: DRX)

Twelve months ended 31 December

2016

2015

Key financial performance measures

EBITDA (£ million)

140

169

Underlying earnings (£ million)

21

46

Underlying earnings per share (pence)

5.0

11.3

Total dividends (pence per share)

2.5

5.7

Net debt (£ million)

93

187

Statutory accounting measures

Profit before tax (£ million)

197

59

Reported basic earnings per share (pence)

48

14

Financial and Operational Highlights

  • 2016 EBITDA in line with guidance
    • Year on year reduction driven by challenging commodity markets and loss of LECs
    • Mitigated by growth in system support, improving retail and pellet supply profitability
  • Three converted biomass units, CfD approved in December
    • 65% of generation from biomass in 2016 (2015: 43%)
    • Investment completed on budget
  • Statutory profit before tax includes unrealised gains related to foreign currency hedging
  • Strong cash flows and balance sheet

Strategic Highlights and Outlook

  • Acquisition of Opus Energy and open cycle gas turbine projects
  • Focus on delivery of strategy
    • Higher quality diversified earnings and targeted long-term growth opportunities
    • Significant earnings growth
  • Maintain operational excellence across base business
  • Refinancing of existing debt facilities
  • 2017 EBITDA expectations in line with consensus

Dorothy Thompson, Chief Executive of Drax Group plc, said:

“We are playing a vital role in helping change the way energy is generated, supplied and used as the UKmoves to a low carbon future.

“With the right conditions, we can do even more, converting further units to run on compressed wood pellets. This is the fastest and most reliable way to support the UK’s decarbonisation targets, whilst minimising the cost to households and businesses.

“In a challenging commodity environment Drax has delivered a good operational performance with 65% renewable power generation.

“The acquisition of Opus Energy and rapid response open cycle gas turbine projects are an important step in delivering our strategy, diversifying our earnings base and contributing to stronger, long-term financial performance across the markets in which we operate.”

NOTES FOR ANALYSTS AND EDITORS

See: https://otp.tools.investis.com/clients/uk/drax1/rns/regulatory-story.aspx?cid=1607&newsid=844424

We can make a difference in 2016 and beyond

Today we released our financial results for 2015.  I’ll be the first to admit that they are not good.  What makes it all the more painful is that one of the strongest operational performances the business has achieved in the last decade, was more than wiped out by factors well outside of our control.

Let’s be frank, for any business operating in the UK energy market 2015 was a tough year. The deterioration in the commodity markets were some of the most severe I have seen in my career. This was then accompanied by a series of unexpected regulatory announcements which caused many to question the UK governments commitment to decarbonisation.

Like any CEO on results day I have spent this morning speaking to investors, journalists and financial analysts. Instead of focusing too much on what hasn’t gone our way in 2015, I’ve focused on where I think we can make a difference in 2016 and beyond, and I’ve been pleased with their positive reaction.

The affordable way to end coal

In November Amber Rudd announced the government’s proposal to consult on setting a clear end date for coal of March 2025. Given it still provides around 25% of the country’s electricity this is an ambitious target. Part of the solution is new nuclear and gas. But as a recent report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers noted, the country will find it very hard to build enough new facilities to replace coal capacity in time.

Instead of having to take all the existing coal power stations off the grid and build new facilities, the country could use the world leading biomass technology that Drax has pioneered to upgrade some of them to use compressed wood pellets instead of coal. The economic consultancy NERA found that more biomass conversions are one of the most sensible ways for the UK to get off coal at the fairest price to the taxpayer. With the right support we stand ready to convert our remaining coal units to become a fully renewable generator.

Helping society and creating shareholder value

I fundamentally believe that Drax is making a valuable contribution in helping society deal with one of the most pressing issues of our time – cutting carbon emissions to limit climate change. We have an approach which is both affordable and reliable. So long as we remain operationally strong, which I am very confident about, then shareholder value will accrue.

Throughout 2016 and beyond, we will build on our expertise and continue to evaluate a range of longer term strategic options. I lead a strong business that will use the opportunities available to us to create value for our shareholders and help bring about a reliable, renewable future that we can all afford.

Three ways to judge a CFO

It’s a good question, because you can’t build a great company without a great chief financial officer (CFO). But as a shareholder, how can you judge how well your CFO is doing? Without setting myself up for a fall, the answer I gave our investor broke down into these three questions:

  1. Are they keeping control? At its heart, the first part of any CFO’s role is to make sure that their business is under control and that all risks are being properly managed. They need to maintain a strong balance sheet and keep reporting and communications clear and transparent. Above all, they need to make sure there are no surprises.
  2. Are they improving efficiency? The second part is making sure the organisation is always working as efficiently as possible, keeping a strong hand on costs and ensuring that current revenue streams are always optimised. Above all, they need to be making sure that less money is going out and more money is coming into the organisation.
  3. Are they allocating capital wisely? The final task of any CFO is investing shareholder’s money in the best projects – first internally and second externally. Above all, they need to have a clear consideration of cash returns for shareholders.

So now the next time you wonder how well your CFO is doing, you know how to judge them.

This article was originally published by Will on LinkedIn.