Engie notes the depreciation of its Belgian nuclear reactors for 2.9 billion euros and formalizes the end of the reign of the atom over the black-yellow-red energy mix.
If only one figure were to be retained for the year 2020 from the French energy company Engie
, it would probably be this one: 2.9 billion euros. This figure, presented during the publication of the group’s annual results on Friday, corresponds to the depreciation of Belgian nuclear assets, now recorded.
Here is which buries for good the last hopes of a possible extension of two units beyond 2025. In short, Engie officially stops all preparatory work that would allow the extension of its reactors, even the most recent, namely Doel 4 and Tihange 3.
So, the group’s net profit takes a serious hit, and goes into the red at -1.5 billion euros, against a profit of 1 billion in 2019. A loss to be attributed largely to the depreciation of the Belgian nuclear fleet therefore, but if we omit the non-recurring items, the annual profit amounts to 1.7 billion euros, or 36.5% less than last year.
Recovery in the second half of the year
Here, the group points to the devastating effects of the coronavirus crisis, even though “in the second half of the year, activity levels gradually recovered, which made it possible to achieve an organic performance similar to that of the second half of 2019 “, pointed out CEO Catherine MacGregor.
In figures, Engie recorded a turnover of 55.8 billion euros, against 60.1 billion last year, in a ebitda down 10.5%, to 9.3 billion, can we read in the press release published this Friday. On the debt side, the situation has improved, with the group posting a net financial debt of 22.5 billion, down 3.5 billion compared to 2019. A dividend of 0.53 euro per share will be offered to shareholders.
End of the standoff against the Belgian state
Beyond the numbers, we will therefore remember 2020 as the year in which Engie will have decided on Belgian nuclear power. The depreciation of 2.9 billion euros on nuclear assets sounds the death knell for the atom in Belgium beyond 2025, no offense to the Belgian government and its plan B, namely the possibility of deciding whether to ‘a final extension of two units at the end of 2021.
“It was decided to stop all preparatory work that would allow two units to be extended by 20 years beyond 2025.”
But this announcement comes as no surprise. As a reminder, last November, an internal video leaked to the press, had made the headlines and confirmed the differences of opinion between Engie and the government. We saw the director of the group’s nuclear activities, Thierry Saegeman, explain to his teams that the company was stopping all projects related to the extension of reactors. The group had subsequently tried to correct the situation, indicating that they were still considering the option of a possible two-unit extension at the end of 2021.
But the message is now clear. “Following the announcements of the Belgian government in the fourth quarter of 2020, it was decided to stop all preparatory work that would allow two units to be extended by 20 years beyond 2025, because it seems unlikely that this extension can take place, taking into account the technical and regulatory constraints “, one reads, in black and white, in the press release of the company. Belgium and nuclear power, it is thus finished.
Of course, Engie’s year 2020 cannot be reduced to Belgian nuclear power alone. In mid-year, the group announced its “strategic refocusing” plan, resulting in his desire to divest two thirds of its service activities and to focus primarily on the development of renewable energies and infrastructure. It should be noted in passing that Engie has confirmed its intention to completely exit coal by 2027. The first to leave the ship was Suez, whose sale of 29.9% of Engie’s shares to French giant Veolia for 3.4 billion euros was completed in October.
For other service activities, the coming months will be decisive.
Note, moreover, that this eventful file has not finished making the cabbage fat of the business press in France, Suez’s board of directors rejected Veolia’s takeover offer on Friday.
What future for Engie Solutions?
For other service activities, the coming months will be decisive. In Belgium, they are 10,000 working for Engie Solutions, or the subsidiary specializing in maintenance services, cold chain management or air conditioning. Even if it affirms that there will be no impact on employment, the group acknowledges studying the possibility of modifying its shareholder structure.