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Ready for the future

The 117th ordinary EBM Assembly of Delegates, looking back on the 2014 financial year, was held yesterday in the KUSPO in Münchenstein. It focused primarily on the mission statement and the new strategy, both of which, EBM believes, will enable it to steadily develop itself further and become a modern, customer-focused and cost-efficient utility company.

As usual, Hugo Holm, president of the Office of the EBM Assembly of Delegates, welcomed the delegates and guests attending at 5.30 p.m. on the dot. After the tellers had been elected and the minutes of last year's Assembly approved, attention turned to the mission statement and to the new strategy. In his address to the Assembly, Alex Kummer, the president of the Board of Directors, discussed the development of EBM. Building his address on the four themes of the "management turnaround", the "energy turnaround", the "market turnaround", and "corporate governance", he referred to the challenges facing the energy sector and to the ways in which EBM was facing up to change by taking ground-breaking action. On the subject of transparency, Alex Kummer said that EBM had started as long ago as 2009, and voluntarily, to use the Swiss GAAP ARR accounting standard and also included in its financial statements precise details of the Board of Directors, its Executive Committee, and of its rules on remuneration. Unlike that of many of its competitors in the sector, he said, EBM's annual report also included detailed figures on its four core business segments, including, for example, new and departing customers with market entry rights.

Dr Conrad Ammann, EBM's CEO, then discussed in detail the strategy itself, which is published on EBM's website. As well as discussing the present situation, the strategies for the EBM Group, and the four core business areas – energy, grid, heat and renewable energies, Dr Ammann explored in greater depth the strategy for supplying and procuring electricity. This is based on the three pillars of renewable energies, energy efficiency, and austerity measures, as well as on security of supply. Generating as it does its own "green" electricity, EBM wants, in the longer term, to build up a portfolio of power stations generating renewable energies accounting for around 50 percent of the energy supply. As this cannot be done using plant in Switzerland alone, EBM is investing in the best locations both in Switzerland and abroad, while prioritising profitability.

Dr Ammann was joined by Cédric Christmann, the CFO, for a discussion of the main key figures in the annual report and the annual financial statements. Above all else, they said, EBM had managed turn its high inherent potential into business success. Not only had its turnover and profits increased, but EBM had also succeeded in establishing and defending a position on the open electricity market. With its 72 percent equity ratio and a gearing ratio of 1.6 net debt to net cash flow, EBM's finances are very sound.

The energy turnaround presents challenges to EBM at every level and also makes structural changes a priority. Modern corporate governance calls for slimline structures, with boards and committee capable of reaching decisions at short notice if need be. With this in mind, the amendment to the Articles that would reduce the size of the Board of Directors was presented to delegates, having been announced at the Assembly in 2014. During the discussion on the annual report, a number of delegates expressed their dissatisfaction with the remuneration figures disclosed in it and suggested that a smaller Board of Directors should continue to include representatives from municipalities. One motion from the delegates primarily addressed EBM's investments in renewable energies abroad and proposed the amendment of the Articles to specify that it would from on be possible for the whole of the profits for the year to be at the disposal of the Assembly of Delegates and that distributions could also be made to the members. EBM's Board of Directors firmly refused to include new purposes for which profits could be used in the Articles. The formation of reserves, it said, was the only way in which EBM could build up the capital needed for essential investments in electricity grids, electrical plant, electricity generation and heat systems in accordance with the firm's objectives and strategy.

Most of the 240 Delegates present agreed with the Board's view and rejected the motion by a large margin. The Assembly approved the annual report and the annual financial statements for 2014, which showed a profit of CHF 30 (8.7) million. CHF 500,000 were transferred from the cooperative's profits to the EBM Energy Fund, which EBM successfully uses to support those of its members seeking to invest in renewable energies or use energy more efficiently within its grid area. The Board of Directors was granted discharge.

The Assembly also endorsed the motion tabled by the Board of Directors to reduce its membership in two stages until the 2018 Assembly to a maximum of 9 members, and adopted an amendment to the Articles to this effect.

With the prospect of the Board of Directors being reduced in size, the current directors Marlise Ehrenzeller, Martin Helfenstein, Rudolf Mohler and Marc Weber laid down their mandates. Due to the age limit laid down in the Articles, Patrick Gassmann was no longer eligible. The current Directors Daniel Schenk (Therwil) and Andreas Dürr (Biel-Benken) were individually confirmed in office for a further period until 2019.

Additional information:

  • Joachim Krebs, Head of Corporate Communication, Tel. +41 61 415 43 85, e-mail j.krebs@ebm.ch

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