Power firm shops for Europe bargains

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2011, 12:00am


China Power International Holding, parent of listed China Power International Development (CPID) - both chaired by former premier Li Peng's daughter, Li Xiaolin - is eyeing opportunities to invest in highly indebted European utility firms amid the region's sovereign credit crisis.

'During the World Energy Summit, a number of European power firms asked us to invest in them,' she said. 'We will look into the opportunities as to whether we will invest. We are assessing the risks.'

Li confirmed that the parent firm was in talks to buy into Portuguese energy company Energias de Portugal (EDP), but gave no details. Earlier media reports suggested it was seeking to buy a 5 per cent stake.

Portugal's government has put a 25 per cent stake in EDP on the block as part of the Euro78 billion (HK$870 billion) EU and International Monetary Fund bailout package agreed to in May, which includes assets sales and government expenditure cuts.

Li spoke after listed CPID posted a 50.7 per cent year-on-year jump in first-half net profit to 411.5 million yuan (HK$500 million), amid widespread losses suffered by rivals that focused on coal-fired power.

Li attributed CPID's performance to strong power demand and its acquisition of major hydropower assets in 2009, which saw hydropower contribute 65 per cent of the firm's net profit, with just 37 per cent of the total installed generation capacity.

Over half of China's coal-fired plants suffered losses in the first half as Beijing failed to lift power prices enough to offset higher coal costs.

Huaneng Power International, China's largest listed power producer focusing on coal-fired power, suffered a 41.5 per cent year-on-year first-half profit fall to 1.13 billion yuan.

Sanford Bernstein analyst Michael Parker said in a research note that Huaneng's second-quarter profit was much better than his estimate, due to the booking of a retrospective power-price increase for last year which would not be repeated. Still, he expected Huaneng to post stronger second-half profits due to lower coal costs and higher power prices.