Success during times of turbulence
EBM ends the 2015 financial year on a triumphant note, with an income from operations before special effects of CHF 53 million – CHF 10 million up on the previous year. Positive effects are being achieved by the purposeful implementation of the strategy, unveiled four years ago, which focuses on core energy-related business, combined with consistent cost management.
In a challenging environment, EBM has come successfully to the end of 2015. Electricity prices in Europe have fallen by more than half within five years. The discontinuation of the minimum CHF-EUR exchange rate made the situation even more acute. Now, with market prices for electricity generated in Switzerland at three to four cents per kilowatt-hour, it has become a crisis.
In 2015, the EBM Group achieved revenue of CHF 407 million, a slight (3%) decline from the year before, which was brought about by slightly reduced basic supply sales volumes and exchange rate effects. At CHF 53 million, the income from operations before special effects is 23 percent higher than last year's figure. In 2015, low electricity prices across Europe obliged EBM to again devalue its long-term rights to procure electricity from the Alpiq power plants and the two hydro-electric plants at Birsfelden and Augst by CHF 34 million, thus reducing earnings from the electricity business segment. For EBM, the bottom line is that it achieved a profit of CHF 19.8 million for the year. With its 74 percent equity ratio, EBM's finances are sound, and its credit is rated as very good.
EBM's sales of electricity in Switzerland and France increased on a year-by-year basis by 3 percent to 3405 million kilowatt-hours (kWh). Large customers are continuing to switch from basic supply to the free market. The loyalty to EBM of long-standing customers even on the market, albeit with lower margins, is encouraging. Only a few large customers procure their electricity from another supplier. Within Switzerland, but outside its grid area, EBM was able to acquire 32 large customers and energy companies with total electricity consumption of 245 million kWh.
The high-quality, safe and reliable supply of electricity is one of EBM's core competencies. Over the course of the year, it invested heavily – CHF 38.4 million (compared with CHF 29.2 million last year) – in developing, replacing and maintaining the electricity grid. This included the construction of the new substation at Aesch, which has been successfully connected to the grid and in operation since September 2015. EBM continued to maintain security of supply to a high degree, as it had done in the preceding year; customers receiving low-voltage electricity within the EBM grid area will not expect to experience a power cut on average more than once every 5.1 years.
The heating segment continues to enjoy dynamic growth. At first, some 30 years ago, heating networks were primarily established within EBM's grid area; now, though, EBM operates a total of 223 heating networks in Switzerland and in neighbouring Alsace. Within the region, EBM has acquired a majority shareholding in Alternativ-Energie Birsfelden AG (AEB), is renovating its central heating centre and adding a woodchip plant to it. EBM has also acquired the Polyfeld heating network in Muttenz, which had been put up for sale by the canton of Basel-Land, and successfully brought it online as of 1 January 2016. Alongside the projects in EBM's own grid area, the area around Strasbourg in France is becoming increasingly important. EBM and Réseau GDS (Gaz de Strasbourg), a public subsidiary company of the city of Strasbourg and operator of the largest gas grid in Alsace, have already set up several heating networks here.
As it celebrated its 10 years of existence, Kleinkraftwerk Birseck AG changed its name to aventron, reflecting its growth strategy and its European outlook. The company, in which not only EBM but also other energy suppliers and investors have stakes, is seeking to take up a position of leadership in the niche market for hydroelectric, solar and wind power stations with an output of up to 20 megawatts in Europe. The success EBM has enjoyed in expanding its plants has enabled it to increase the supply of electricity from its own renewable sources by 14.3 percent to 854 million kWh. This might now, notionally, make it possible to cover a good 42 percent of the electricity supplied to EBM's customers.
EBM is now, with over 130,000 customers, one of the ten largest energy providers in Switzerland. It has 400 employees and 15 trainees, and, with an eye on opening markets, seeks to develop itself continually as a modern, customer-focused and cost-efficient energy supply company. Given the stormy times that the electricity industry is experiencing, this cultural change is more vital than ever.
- Joachim Krebs, Head of Corporate Communication, Tel. +41 61 415 43 85, E-Mail email@example.com