Essen,
08
March
2016
|
00:00
Europe/Amsterdam

Measures to further boost financial strength approved; 2015 earnings targets achieved

Net debt down almost one fifth

In fiscal 2015, the RWE Group passed a number of important milestones in terms of boosting its financial strength. Net debt was down almost one-fifth, to €25.1 billion. The main reason for this was the successful disposal of RWE Dea, which had an impact of €5.3 billion, including the interest on the sale price. Further disposals had a total debt-reducing effect of €1.4 billion. The increase in the discount rates used to calculate provisions for pensions, which reflect the recent development of market interest rates, also helped reduce debt.

Good progress was also made in implementing the current efficiency-enhancement programme: a lasting effect on the operating result of €1.6 billion was achieved by the end of 2015, which was €100 million more than the original target. The company is therefore planning new steps to increase its operating effectiveness, focusing on conventional power generation and the UK supply business, which it intends to comprehensively restructure. In total, the Group aims to achieve a positive impact of €2.5 billion on the operating result (previously €2.0 billion), which should be fully felt from 2018 (previously from 2017).

The strategic restructuring of the RWE Group, which was decided upon at the end of 2015, is also on schedule. The new subsidiary bundling renewables, grids and retail both in Germany and internationally, will begin operating on 1 April 2016. Looking back at 2015, CEO of RWE AG Peter Terium noted, “Last year we had to deal with a number of difficulties, ranging from discussions on energy policy to problems in our UK supply business and the further decline in prices for wholesale power trading. But I am proud of the efforts put in by our employees, since we have collectively kept the RWE Group on track. This has meant making a number of tough decisions. As a result, we have opened up new business opportunities. However, energy policy challenges still continue to pose a burden.”

As expected, the RWE Group was unable to match the operating result from the previous year, but nonetheless achieved its earnings targets despite unfavourable framework conditions in the energy sector. The 2% decline in EBITDA compared to the previous year, to €7.0 billion, was actually smaller than expected. This can be attributed to special items such as the full consolidation of the Slovak energy utility VSE from the end of August. Another reason for exceeding the target was one-off income realised for insurance claims for the power plant project at Hamm. Both of these items had a positive effect on EBITDA and the operating result, although the decision not to complete the construction of Block D required the company to recognise an impairment of €654 million, which was included in the operating result. 

At €3.8 billion (4% below the previous year), the operating result was in line with expectations, as was adjusted net income which amounted to €1.1 billion (12% down on the previous year). 

Result of Renewables Division doubles

The Renewables Division posted a considerable gain in its operating result. It more than doubled compared to 2014, rising from €186 million to €493 million. This was largely due to the commissioning of new wind farms with a total generating capacity of some 1,000 megawatts (MW) during 2015, including the offshore wind farms Nordsee Ost, near Heligoland (295 MW), and Gwynt y Môr off the coast of Wales (576 MW; RWE’s share was reduced from 60% to 50% in October 2015). This means that renewables now account for the largest share of RWE’s generation portfolio after gas and coal. “Renewables are increasingly becoming a main pillar of our business,” says Terium. “Besides the operational business, our entire focus in 2016 will be on restructuring the Group to lay the foundations for further growth.” 

Negative net income: significant burdens due to impairments

However, the successes in the Renewables Division and the better than expected progress in implementing the efficiency-enhancement programme, were not sufficient to offset the decline in earnings, in particular in conventional power generation. The continued price-driven decline in margins in conventional power generation was also the reason for €2.1 billion in impairments for the Group’s German and UK power plants. In addition, deferred tax assets of €0.9 billion had to be written down and recognised as a loss. These exceptional burdens brought net income down to -€170 million. In the supply business, which contributed €824 million (2014: €912 million) to the operating result Europe-wide, operational and technical problems in the UK supply business impacted on the result, although the cooler weather compared to 2014 had a positive effect. External revenue posted a marginal increase, rising to €48.6 billion (+0.3%).

Dividend proposal for fiscal 2015

Due to the drastic deterioration of earnings prospects in conventional power generation and the current political uncertainties, the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board of RWE AG will propose to the Annual General Meeting on 20 April 2016 a suspension of the dividend for common shares for fiscal 2015 and payment of the minimum dividend for preferred shares (€0.13 per share) as stipulated by the Articles of Incorporation. “In view of the serious crisis in conventional power generation, we need to take further radical measures,” explains Terium. “Substantially boosting our efficiency-enhancement programme will not be enough. That is why, in order to bolster our company, we have taken this difficult but necessary decision regarding our dividend. We are aware that we have disappointed many of our shareholders by taking this step.”

Power generation up 2% year on year, CO2 emissions down 3%

In 2015, the RWE Group produced 213.0 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, an increase of 2% year on year. One reason was that both of the units of the new 1,554-megawatt (MW) hard coal-fired power plant near the Dutch port of Eemshaven started commercial operation on 1 May and 1 July 2015, respectively. The expansion of the Group’s wind power capacity and high wind levels also helped increase electricity production. A counteracting effect was felt from the fact that RWE no longer uses some third-party German hard coal-fired power stations, because the underlying contracts expired and were not renewed. This relates to a total generation capacity of more than 2.4 gigawatts (GW). RWE’s gas and coal-fired power stations emitted 150.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) during 2015, 3% less than in 2014. CO2 emissions per megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity generated were also down, dropping from 0.745 to 0.708 metric tons.

Slight rise in electricity sales volume, gas supply volume up 5% year on year

In 2015, RWE supplied 262.1 billion kWh of electricity to external customers, slightly more than in 2014. While the Group achieved gains in sales in the industrial and corporate segment, partly because it won new customers, it experienced a decline in deliveries to German distributors.Gas sales increased by 5% to 296.7 billion kWh. This was in part because the weather in all of RWE’s key markets was colder during the first half of the year than in 2014.

Conventional Power Generation Division

In line with expectations, this division’s operating result declined substantially, dropping by 45% to €543 million. The main reason is that RWE realised lower wholesale prices for its German and Dutch electricity generation than in 2014. This was only somewhat mitigated by price-driven relief in the purchase of fuel (especially hard coal).

Supply/Distribution Networks Germany Division

The operating result posted by this division was in line with the forecast moderate decline. At €1,856 million, it was just below the previous year’s level. One influencing factor was a decrease in income from the sale of networks. Earnings achieved by the German supply business improved. A year before, they were characterised by weather-induced drops in gas sales volume. In addition, the Division benefited from the expansion of its electricity and gas customer base, by 95,000 and 44,000, respectively. 

Supply Netherlands/Belgium Division

As anticipated, the division posted a substantial gain in its operating result compared to 2014, driving it up 33% to €194 million. The increase was partly due to a recovery in earnings in the gas supply business following the very mild weather in 2014. The division also successfully marketed new supply offerings.

Supply United Kingdom Division

The division closed the year with an operating loss of €137 million. The main reason was serious process and system-related problems in residential customer billing. Earnings shortfalls also stemmed from the fact that residential and commercial customers switched providers.

Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe Division

The operating result for this division totalled €919 million, one third more than in 2014. This was much better than the moderate decline that was forecast, thanks mainly to one-off income from the first full consolidation of VSE: this change in accounting treatment was subsequent to the revaluation of the investment, which revealed a hidden reserve of €185 million. But even without this effect, the division would have ended the year higher than the previous year, mainly because of successful cost-cutting measures.

Trading/Gas Midstream Division

The operating result posted by RWE Supply & Trading amounted to €156 million, which was below expectations. The weaker performance is in part due to the development in energy trading, where income was slightly below average, after having been very high in the prior year.

Cash Flow

The RWE Group generated cash flows from operating activities amounting to €3,339 million in 2015, well below the 2014 figure of €5,556 million. This reflects the deterioration in conventional power generation margins and one-off effects from a change in the payment schedule for CO2 emission allowances, which had had a positive effect on working capital in 2014. 

Capital expenditure marginally down on previous year

At €3.3 billion, the RWE Group’s capital expenditure was 4% lower than the figure recorded in the equivalent period last year. There was a considerable drop in capital expenditure in the Conventional Power Generation Division, which in 2014 still focused on the two new hard coal-fired power stations, at Hamm in Germany and at Eemshaven in the Netherlands. Capital expenditure in the Renewables Division also declined significantly. A portion was allocated to the new offshore wind farms Nordsee Ost and Gwynt y Môr.

Headcount unchanged on balance despite streamlining measures

As at 31 December 2015, RWE had 59,762 people on its payroll (converted to full-time positions), roughly as many as in the previous year (59,784). On balance, operating changes caused 1,859 employees to leave the Group, with streamlining measures playing a central role. In contrast, initial consolidations and deconsolidations had a positive net effect, adding 1,837 positions. The full consolidation of VSE alone added 1,559 staff members. The sale of RWE Dea in March did not lead to a change in headcount in 2015, as the company’s employees stopped being included in the figures for the Group in the middle of 2014.

Outlook

For 2016, the RWE Group expects EBITDA of between €5.2 billion and €5.5 billion and an operating result of €2.8 billion to €3.1 billion. Adjusted net income is expected to be between €0.5 billion and €0.7 billion. This represents a considerable decline compared to 2015. One principal reason is the price-induced decline in margins in conventional power generation, which efficiency-enhancement measures will only partly offset. The absence of special items also plays a role. Measures to restructure the UK supply business have begun, and RWE expects further burdens in this area in 2016. Despite the difficult economic environment, both net debt and headcount are expected to remain constant at a Group level.

Forward-looking Statements 

This press release contains forward-looking statements regarding the future development of the RWE Group and its companies as well as economic and political developments. These statements are assessments that RWE has made based on information available to the company at the time this document was prepared. In the event that the underlying assumptions do not materialise or additional risks arise, actual performance can deviate from the performance expected at present. Therefore, RWE cannot assume responsibility for the accuracy of these statements.