Orion powers ahead despite quake damage

Christchurch electricity lines company Orion New Zealand has reported a $50 million profit for the 2014 financial year, slightly topping the $49m profit in the prior year.

From the profit in the year to March 31, the company has paid its owners $34m in dividends, up $2m on the previous year.

The dividends are paid to ultimate shareholders, Christchurch City Council, through its investment arm, Christchurch City Holdings Ltd, and Selwyn District Council.

Orion chief executive Rob Jamieson said today it was a sound financial performance by the electricity distribution company, which was still investing strongly in the network but was taking on debt to do so.

The network was damaged in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

"We're keeping costs under control and that allows us to continue to invest in the network," Jamieson said.

"Our objective is to support the region's recovery and rebuild and this result means we can do that with confidence.

"In 2014, we increased our capital expenditure to $84m, up $13m on the previous year, and our capital programme will remain high for the next few years as we build capacity and security into the network.

"Our debt will rise as a result, but it will remain within prudent levels."

The company's assets were valued at more than $1 billion, Jamieson said.

Electricity use in the network's region was recovering, and the number of new residential and business connections to Orion's network was increasing as the earthquake rebuild gathered pace, he said.

"The number of contractors working near our network also continues to rise, and is now around 10 times pre-quake levels. Given this increased activity, we're especially pleased that we have retained our excellent safety record."

Jamieson said the region had experienced several severe wind storms in the past year, which had caused rural power outages lasting up to several days as trees struck the company's lines.

"As a result we've increased our public communication around keeping trees away from lines and planting the right species to reduce future impacts," he said.

"Our urban customers also consistently demand high reliability and quick restoration of outages, as witnessed by the response to the three-hour power cut to part of north Christchurch a fortnight ago. We must continue to invest to meet these expectations."

The Press