Thursday 19 October 2017

Price hikes stay as ESB profits surge to €230m

Donal O'Donovan and Colm Kelpie

PROFITS at the ESB hit almost a quarter of a billion euro in the first half of the year, even as the semi-state company piled price hikes on increasingly hard-pressed householders.

The company has said that it is sticking with its near-6pc increase in electricity prices -- despite the huge surge in profits. The price hikes came into effect this month.

The ESB reported profits of €230m for the first six months of this year -- up from €87m during the same period in 2011.

The 165pc rise in profits comes just weeks after the company announced an increase of 5.9pc in electricity prices.

The price hike adds €64 on to the average annual electricity bill for a family. The company also said that gas prices would increase by 8.5pc.

This is the second year in a row that households have faced a price increase going into the winter. The firm said that its main Irish operation, Electric Ireland, had just returned to profit and that the ESB did not expect to see a similar surge in profits for the rest of the year.

However, a spokeswoman added: "We're not reviewing the price increase."

The electricity price rise of almost 6pc comes on the back of a hefty 12pc increase in October of last year. Turnover at the company was up €300m to €1.6bn for the period.

The state-owned company has previously blamed higher distribution and transmission costs for the price rises being borne by struggling consumers.

Rebranded

ESB makes some of its money outside the State, including in Northern Ireland and the UK.

The latest figures show its foreign businesses are its most profitable units, but it is also generated profits at home.

Most Irish homes and businesses get their power from the ESB's recently rebranded retail arm, Electric Ireland. It had sales of almost €1bn in the first six months of the year, and made profits of €21m.

The latest financial data was released to the Stock Exchange because the ESB's debt is traded on the Dublin market.

The company appointed an executive from within its ranks as the new chief executive to replace Padraig McManus.

Dubliner Pat O'Doherty, the executive director of ESB's international division, was appointed to the top post last year, on a basic salary of €318,000.

Michael Kilcoyne, chairman of the Consumers' Association of Ireland, said the semi-state was showing no "empathy with their hard-pressed customers."

"Many of their customers have no income left at the end of the month after they've paid their electricity bill. They also cut off a huge number of their customers last year and yet they keep driving up prices.

"How can they justify these increases when they're making such huge profits?," he added.

Irish Independent

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