VERBUND’s business model is demonstrating its value in an environment dominated by COVID-19. The focus on electricity generation from renewable energy, the expansion of the Austrian high-voltage grid, the focusing of sales activities in a downstream project and the development of innovative new lines of business are making a significant contribution in this regard. Our strict financial discipline in previous years has meant that VERBUND has developed considerable resilience and retains a high degree of strategic flexibility, thus enabling it to continue performing well in the current somewhat weaker and more volatile economic environment.
The results posted by VERBUND for quarters 1–2/2020 were down only marginally in spite of the changed conditions due to COVID-19 and a significantly lower water supply than in the previous year. EBITDA decreased by 6.8% to €639.0m. The Group result declined by 8.2% to €310.4m compared with the same period of the previous year. The water supply was at a lower level in quarters 1–2/2020. The hydro coefficient for the run-of-river hydropower plants was 0.95, which is 5 percentage points below the long-term average and 16 percentage points below the prior-year figure. In contrast, generation from annual storage power plants increased substantially in quarters 1–2/2020. The rise in wholesale electricity prices on the futures markets during the relevant hedging period had a positive effect on earnings. Prices on the spot markets, on the other hand, declined significantly in quarters 1–2/2020, due in particular to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Overall, the EBITDA contributions from the New renewables and Sales segments increased slightly, while the contributions from the Hydro segment, Grid segment and all other segments decreased. The development of the financial result was encouraging as a result of a significant reduction in interest expenses, largely thanks to high repayments of principal in financial year 2019. A number of non-recurring effects were also recognised in quarters 1–2/2020.
These related mainly to impairment losses on power plants due to higher capital costs, as well as the measurement of an obligation to return an interest relating to the Jochenstein power plant on the Danube River. The Group result after adjustment for non-recurring effects was €301.0m, corresponding to a decrease of 11.6% on the prior-year period. The free cash flow after dividends for quarters 1–2/2020 came to €268.1m, allowing net debt to be reduced by 5.6% to €2,129.0m.
Earnings forecast for 2020
Based on expectations of average levels of own generation from hydropower and wind power in the second half of 2020 as well as the opportunities and risks identified, EBITDA of between approximately €1,150m and €1,250m and a Group result of between approximately €510m and €570m in financial year 2020 are forecast. VERBUND is planning a dividend payout ratio of between 40% and 50% of the Group result for financial year 2020 of between approximately €500m and €560m after adjustment for non-recurring effects.