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Despite tepid sales and revenue, shares of most power utilities rose after the September quarter results.
Compared with the BSE 500 index’s loss of 4%, the BSE utilities index gained 5% in the earnings season of October and November. Tracking the demand slowdown, power generation growth slowed from 9% in April-June to around 1% in July-September.
The September quarter earnings of major power utilities reflected this. Generation at NTPC Ltd is up just 1%. Volumes at Adani Power Ltd are flat. Generation at Reliance Power Ltd was hit by coal feeding problems.
Tata Power Co. Ltd, JSW Energy Ltd and hydro power producer NHPC Ltd registered good volume growth, aided by new capacities. At JSW Energy, hydro power plants—which get a seasonal leg-up—drove generation performance.
The subdued power generation, along with changes in accounting norms, weighed on revenue. Still, most firms managed to better Street estimates, thanks to low costs, incentive income and better cost recovery. NTPC’s operating profit (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) grew in double digits.
Tata Power benefited from high coal prices and low finance costs. The firm has a stake in coal ventures. Also, availability at its Mundra plant rose, helping it improve cost recovery. Losses at Adani Power fell, thanks to low finance costs. Even NHPC topped estimates. It benefited from new capacities, incentives and other income.
One firm that missed consensus earnings estimates was JSW Energy. It was hit by low power off-take and realizations at its coal plants. High coal prices and concerns about delay in signing of a power purchase agreement (PPA) for its Vijayanagar plant led to earnings cuts.
“We have revised our estimates downward to factor in a) delay in signing of a firm PPA by the Karnataka discom for the Vijayanagar plant (impacting plant load factor) and b) steep fall in merchant realization,” Emkay Global Financial Services Ltd said in a note on JSW Energy.
Outside the generation space, Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd did well. Revenue rose 28.5% on strong performance across divisions—transmission, telecom and consultancy service. Overall, barring one or two firms, the performances are largely in line with Street estimates.
The results show firms have ample room for improvement, at least so far as utilization is concerned. While that is contingent on demand recovery, analysts expect the companies with power purchase agreements (PPAs) to continue to do better.
“Companies with regulated business models delivered stable performances. While they should continue to do well, firms dependent on merchant power and imported coal can see pressure on earnings due to high coal prices and low merchant power rates,” Pawan Parakh, analyst at HDFC Securities Ltd, said.
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