Swedish power company Vattenfall is claiming a successful first quarter of 2012 after posting profits of SEK 13.6bn ($2bn), a rise of 92.4 per cent on the same period last year.

A vital target for the company in the last four months was to offload noncore assets in a bid to bring down its debt. Key to this was offloading some operations in Belgium, Finland and Poland, which brought in SEK 21bn, with SEK 8.1bn coming from the sale of a Finnish electricity and distribution business. It has also agreed to sell its stake in a biomass pilot project in Liberia.

Vattenfall’s operating profit rose 60.1 per cent from early 2011 to SEK 18.9bn, while net sales decreased 5.5 per cent to SEK 50m.

The company’s chief executive Øystein Løseth said: “Our work on improving the efficiency of our operations is advancing faster than planned, and our ambition now is to achieve savings of SEK 6 billion by year-end 2012, which is one year ahead of the original plan.”

However, he added that the trend in demand and electricity prices “is expected to remain weak in the years immediately ahead, which means that we must focus even harder on lowering our costs and improving the availability of our production plants”.

Last week, fellow European wind turbine manufacturer Vestas announced it had appointed as its new chief financial officer Dag Gunnar Andersen, who until last year held the same role at Vattenfall. His predecessor at Vestas left earlier this year after the company suffered huge losses and was forced to issue to profit warnings.

Vestas announced this week that its losses had increased to $214m in the first quarter compared to $112m a year ago, while revenues rose from $1.3bn to $1.4bn. Meanwhile, orders at the company reached a record high of $13bn.

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