Ørsted wind earnings grow 75%

DENMARK: Offshore wind developer Ørsted (formerly Dong Energy) has reported a 18% increase in pre-tax earnings in 2017, with the wind division growing by 74%.

Ørsted's wind business underlying profit grew 74% in 2017

The Danish firm's operating profit (Ebitda) for the group as a whole was in line with expectations, totalling DKK 22.5 billion (€3 billion) for 2017.

The wind division's Ebitda increased to DKK 20.6 billion (€2.76 billion) for the year, offset partially by higher costs of project development in new markets. 

Growth in offshore capacity also meant earnings from operating projects grew 45%, the firm said. Ørsted commissioned the 582MW Gode Wind 1&2 and the 258MW Burbo Bank Extension in 2017, boosting capacity.

The 659MW Walney Extension has produced the first power from its second phase, and the developer also commissioned the 573MW Race Bank site in the UK last month. 

Up to 2023, Ørsted CEO Henrik Poulsen said roughly 85% of investments will be made in offshore wind, with an expected 13-15% return on those outlays.

As a result of its strong financial position, Ørsted has also recommended an increase in dividend payments from DKK 6/share (€0.81) to DKK 9/share (€1.20), which is "a significant increase compared to our announcement at the time of the IPO", according to Poulsen. 

Fourth quarter

Power generation from Ørsted's wind assets grew 61% year-on-year during the fourth quarter of 2017. Wind projects produced 2.9TWh of electricity, compared to the 1.8TWh a year earlier, aided by increased capacity and slightly higher wind speeds.

The wind business recorded DKK 5.6 billion (752 million) in revenue, up from DKK 4.4 billion (€591 million) in 2016, while Ebitda in the wind business totalled DKK 12.6 billion (€1.7 billion), up 149% year-on-year following the sales in 50% stakes of the Walney Extension and Borkum Riffgrund 2 offshore wind projects in the UK and Germany, respectively. 

Ørsted has also welcomed Martin Neubert as its new wind power CEO from today (1 February). Neubert replaces Samuel Leupold in the role, who stepped down last month.

Back to onshore

In 2013, the developer, then Dong Energy, announced plans to sell-off its onshore wind fleet and completely divested its interest in the sector in 2014. 

Today, Poulsen announced the firm would establish a business unit to look at investment opportunities in solar PV and storage, with the chance onshore wind may also play a role.

Speaking with journalists, Poulsen explained the firm was under much tigher financial pressure in 2013, and decided to sell onshore wind assets, among others, to focus on offshore wind developments.

Since then, Poulsen said, the company has improved its financial situation, and is looking to expand its operational portfolio as part of its strategy to become an entirely green power generator. 

"We would only enter onshore wind if we can acquire a strong development platform in the market. There will be a strict value-creation criteria," Poulsen said. 

Poulsen believes the firm can offer its expertise from its conventional generation, offshore wind, and storage projects to deliver profitable onshore wind sites. 

"It is early days for these initiatives, and we are still working to establish a scalable commercial model for them. Thus, they are not expected to contribute significantly to the Group's financial development in the short term, but we are exploring them as long-term growth options," Poulsen wrote in Ørsted's annual report.