Ascendant sees profit jump to $12.4m
A big fall in restructuring charges helped Ascendant Group Limited, the parent company of Belco, achieve a 129 per cent improvement in its full year profit, reporting net income of $12.4 million, or $1.27 per share, for 2019.
That was up on the $5.4 million reported in 2018, when the company shouldered restructuring charges of $9.12 million in 2018. Last year those charges fell by 68 per cent to $2.88 million.
Ascendant's core earnings were $15.3 million in 2019, about $800,000 higher than the previous year.
Sean Durfy, Ascendant CEO, said: “2019 was a very busy year for the company. We made great progress with our $250 million capital plan having built and commissioned Bermuda's first battery energy storage system and completed construction of the NPS [North Power Station].
“These are significant investments that will ensure a safe, reliable and cost-effective energy future for Bermuda.”
He said shareholders had also approved the sale of the company to Algonquin.
“Algonquin is an established renewable energy and utility group with North American assets in excess of $10 billion and they currently own and operate 54 energy facilities, of which 90 per cent are renewable. As part of their proposal, Algonquin has committed to continue to run all Ascendant companies locally with current Bermudian management and to support Belco as it works alongside the [Regulatory] Authority to implement the Integrated Resource Plan for Bermuda and introduce modern energy technologies to accelerate the introduction of renewables, conservation and battery storage for the island.”
He said the increased net income was due to “solid operating results”.
Dennis Pimentel, Belco president, said: “Belco has made great progress on the $120 million NPS replacement generation project which is currently being commissioned. In addition, we have begun our $50 million-plus upgrade to our transmission and distribution system which will ensure a much more resilient grid and the ability to add large and small scale renewables. We were also pleased to complete our rate case and deliver lower rates to our customers beginning in January 2020.”
He added: “Even though electricity sales continue to decline, our cost savings measures have allowed us to lower rates for customers. We are confident that the NPS and ongoing cost saving initiatives and efficiency measures will enable us to continue to provide safe, cost-effective electricity for our valued customers.”
During the year, Belco's earnings were $19 million, up $1.35 million, or 8 per cent, on 2018.
The company said the 5 per cent increase in core earnings was due to increased results at Belco and continued growth in non-utility earnings at AG Holdings Limited, partially offset by higher group expenses.
Ascendant continued its share repurchase programme until 1 April last year, when it was discontinued in light of the proposed sale of the company. Share repurchases during the year totalled 139,395 at an average price of $18.26 per share.
The company's earnings and cashflow enabled its board to maintain the annual dividend rate at 45 cents per share.