News digest

Babtie wind advisors: Babtie Power Consultancy Group has been appointed to advise power project developers AB Energy of the UK and Canada’s ATCO on all aspects of their wind energy electrical generation projects.

Ballard fuel cell move: Canada’s Ballard Power Systems is to buy the assets of Coleman Powermate’s fuel cell-powered generator product line. Ballard plans to speed up the commercialization of Coleman Powermate’s AirGen which runs on a Ballard fuel cell.

Citigroup settling: Bankers Citigroup is in advanced talks with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to settle allegations that it disguised loans to Enron as commodity trades enabling Enron to book the revenue and mask its true financial position.

CMS book sale: As part of its parent company’s liquidity improvement plan, CMS Marketing, Services and Trading has agreed to sell its wholesale electric book to Constellation Power Source Inc.

Deutz back in profit: German diesel and gas engine manufacturer, Deutz AG, has returned to profit for 2002 following the implementation of its “Re-Launch” programme two years ago. Sales increased five per cent and a provisional profit of g2m ($2.2m) is forecast against a loss of g31.8m in 2001.

DynaMotive success: Biofuel specialists DynaMotive Energy Systems Corporation has successfully completed its pilot programme using its patented pyrolysis system and said it will now construct a 100 t/day commercial plant in Canada.

GE Jenbacher move: GE Power Systems has launched a public tender offer for the remaining shares in Austrian-based engine supplier Jenbacher following its agreement to acquire a 55 per cent controlling interest last year.

Instrumentation partnership: Dranetz-BMI, the US power quality instrumentation unit of WPT Group, has agreed a co-branding and co-marketing deal with LEM, initially focusing on the Americas. LEM is a leader in the measurement of electrical parameters.

Powergen job cuts: Powergen said it would be cutting nearly 1000 jobs following a review of retail business activities in the wake of its purchase of TXU Europe’s retail business last year. Two hundred jobs are also going with the closure of former TXU power plants High Marnham and Drakelow C.

QinetiQ Mars study: QinetiQ, a science and technology solution provider, has been chosen to carry out a study for the European Space Agency to identify power generation and storage technologies in the harsh Martian environment.

Babcock Hitachi buys boiler group

Babcock Hitachi K.K. of Japan is to acquire a 90 per cent stake in Babcock Borsig Power Systems GmbH, the boiler and pollution control division of Germany’s Babcock Borsig Group. Details of the transaction, due to close by 31 March 2003, were not revealed but press reports suggest Babcock Hitachi is paying g22m ($24m).

“The acquisition … gives us a strategical entry into the important European power plant market”, said Hayato Ogawa, CEO of Babcock Hitachi. Babcock Borsig’s chairman, Horst Piepenburg, said, “We are gaining a strong shareholder in an energy market that is set to expand quite substantially in the coming years”.

Babcock Borsig Group filed for insolvency in July 2002 and formed Babcock Borsig Power Systems which serves as a rescue company to secure the assets of creditors.

Asset write-downs hit AES

US independent power company AES reported a fourth quarter loss of $2.8bn after making provisions totalling $2.7bn for asset impairments in Latin America, the US and the UK. Revenues for the year increased 13 per cent to $8.6bn.

AES said that it would continue to focus on performance recovery and cashflow and plans further debt reduction over the coming years. The company has liquidity exceeding $500 000 following a corporate refinancing at the end of 2002 and asset sales.

AES took a $1bn charge in terminating contracts with two European utilities resulting from the collapse of TXU Europe. Its investment is Electropaulo, an electricity company in São Paulo, Brazil cost AES $706m in goodwill write-downs and a further $398m impairment related to Latin American utility Cemig.

ABB agrees asbestos bankruptcy plan

Engineering group ABB has succeeded in capping its exposure to asbestos-related liabilities arising from its US subsidiary Combustion Engineering by gaining approval for a “pre-packaged” Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan for the division. An overwhelming majority of claimants accepted the $1.3bn settlement plan.

Mounting asbestos liabilities had threatened to bankrupt the entire group and speculation had arisen that ABB would have to pay up to $3bn to settle the litigation, which would have wiped out its $1.8bn of equity.

In the wake of the asbestos settlement, ABB posted a net loss of $787m for 2002, having delayed its full year results by two weeks. The results saw a sharp drop in orders and a fall in equity base to $1.1bn.

European boiler industry link-up

Two of Europe’s specialist suppliers of boilers and pressure vessels – Wellman Robey and Loos International – have formed an alliance to combine their 200 years of combined know-how and experience. Fabrications, produced at Loos International’s German plants, will be fitted out and tested at Wellman’s factory in the UK West Midlands and backed by the large combined service organisation of the Robert Loos Alliance.

The Robey Loos Alliance is launching a new range of products and will provide standard and special products to a wide range of commercial, public and process industries, including the power sector.

Survey shows power utilities fearful of regulatory risk

A recent study published by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young shows confidence in deregulation has fallen among global utility executives during the past year. Some 43 per cent of the 130 senior executives surveyed in the Autumn of 2002 are now less positive about deregulation than 12 months ago and fear intervention by regulators and governments.

Those questioned also expressed concern over lack of liquidity in key energy markets after the retreat of many US utilities reacting to the collapse of credit ratings. Faced with the combination of regulatory and competitive pressures to improve efficiency, many felt there would be further consolidation and a smaller number of large players would emerge.

Data Systems acquires Schneider nuclear I&C unit

Data Systems & Solutions, a 50/50 venture between Rolls-Royce and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), has acquired the nuclear unit of Schneider Electric, based in France, which specializes in nuclear instrumentation and control technology.

Data Systems & Solutions will maintain the French site and will now be able to add high-technology digital systems hardware to its product range. “We look forward to maintaining the long-term relationships that Schneider’s nuclear unit has established with its many valued customers, including Electricité de France,” said a spokeman for Data Systems & Solutions.