The situation in the energy market changed quite suddenly in quarter 1/2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Neither the real economy nor the financial economy has been able to escape the effects of COVID-19, and even the energy markets are feeling the consequences of the global pandemic. Following the outbreak of the crisis in Europe, prices for CO2 emission rights fell due to declining electricity production and an oversupply of CO2 emission rights. A massive drop in demand from industry and business caused prices for coal, natural gas and crude oil to drop as well, in some cases quite substantially. The decline in demand also negatively impacted wholesale prices for electricity.
As regards managing the crisis, we at VERBUND took action to mitigate its effects at an early stage. During the present COVID-19 crisis, the overriding goal is to maintain a secure supply of electricity in Austria with respect to both production and transmission. To ensure this, VERBUND’s tried-and-tested crisis management organisation and the VERBUND crisis management team are working in close cooperation with state crisis and disaster management units.
However, thanks to our low debt levels and strategy for hedging our own electricity generation, VERBUND is well positioned for 2020 despite the difficult energy landscape. In quarter 1/2020, we therefore recorded satisfactory business performance despite the coronavirus crisis.
EBITDA fell only slightly (by 4.9%) to €331.0m. The Group result was down 12.1% on the prior-year period to €156.5m. Earnings benefitted from the rise in electricity prices for 2020 on the futures markets that had already been secured in 2019 and the slightly higher earnings contributions from the New renewables and Sales segments. The earnings trend was negatively impacted by the lower water supply, which with a hydro coefficient of 1.09 in quarter 1/2020 was 9% above the long-term average, but 12 percentage points below the figure for quarter 1/2019. The fall in electricity prices on the spot markets due to the effects of the coronavirus crisis and the lower contributions to earnings from the Grid segment as a result of the decline in demand for electricity also had a negative effect. The free cash flow in quarter 1/2020 came to €150.2m, allowing net debt to be reduced by 6.7% to €2,104.2m.