Huaneng Power International lost 1.31 billion yuan (HK$1.49 billion) in the fourth quarter of last year, causing it to post yesterday a worse than expected annual net loss, its first since going public in 1998. The fourth-quarter net loss of the mainland's largest listed power producer compared with a 1.64 billion yuan profit it posted a year earlier. The company lost 3.94 billion yuan for all of last year, compared with a profit of 6.16 billion yuan in 2007. The loss came despite turnover surging 35.7 per cent to 67.56 billion yuan on a 6.3 per cent output rise and two power price increases. But the price increases came too late and the output gains were too little to overcome a 50 per cent jump in fuel costs per unit of output, as calculated by Citigroup. The loss was higher than the 2.97 billion yuan median estimate by 26 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. A near doubling in interest expenses to 4.06 billion yuan from 2.13 billion yuan in 2007 because of aggressive new plant construction worsened the loss. The board proposed a final dividend of 10 fen per share, compared with 30 fen in 2007. Meanwhile, Datang International Power Generation, which posted better than expected results yesterday, said it would issue up to 700 million new shares to raise as much as 5billion yuan to help fund nine power projects. The projects cost about 76.34 billion yuan. Mainland power projects are typically 20 per cent funded by equity and the rest by bank loans. Datang's balance sheet has been stretched by aggressive expansion. Its net debt-to-equity ratio stood at 334.7 per cent at the end of last year. Interest costs jumped 77.7 per cent last year to 3.66 billion yuan, a major drag on its bottom line. Yesterday, the firm posted a 78.64 per cent fall in net profit last year to 761.3 million yuan, compared with analysts' mean estimate of 273.46 million yuan. The decline was triggered by a 43 per cent jump last year in the average coal cost per unit of output that could not be offset by two power price increases in the third quarter, each amounting to about 5.5 per cent. After the power price rises, fourth-quarter net profit still slid 10.2 per cent year on year to 836.7 million yuan, but this was a major improvement from a 13.93 million yuan loss in the first three quarters last year. A final dividend of 11 fen per share was proposed, down from the 12 fen payout in 2007. The stock rose 2.4 per cent to HK$3.41 yesterday after the results announcement.