Drax shares in freefall after halving dividend in the face of a challenging market

 
Oliver Gill
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Drax is headquartered near the town of Selby, the birthplace of King Henry I (Source: Getty)

Power generator Drax's share price plummeted over seven per cent after revealing underlying earnings had halved.

The firm said weaker power prices and "a challenging commodity environment" had hit the group's full-year figures.

The figures

Full-year earnings at the North Yorkshire-based group fell by 17 per cent – earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation were £140m, down from £169m.

Underlying earnings – which excluded a £177m gain on derivative contracts – fell by 54 per cent to £21m.

Read more: Drax shares soar by a fifth on news of renewables deal

Drax has a policy of paying out half its earnings as a dividend to investors, so dividends per share fell similarly, with a return of 2.5p per share compared with 5.7p per share a year earlier.

Net debt halved, falling from £187m to £93m.

Why it's interesting

Today's figures were broadly in line with expectations, but towards the lower end of what analysts anticipated.

The group is putting the final touches to a deal to buy Opus Energy for £340m. It announced the deal last year and shareholders gave it the green light earlier this month.

16 February 2017 @ 9:45amDrax Group (DRX)

Opus is viewed as a key challenger to the domination of the Big Six suppliers (British Gas, Edf, E.on, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE) in the business gas and electricity market. And this deal will enable Drax to grow its retail offering and give it an access point to the market.

Read more: Drax's difficult year results in drop in profits

Chief executive of Drax Dorothy Thompson said the purchase of Opus was "an important step in delivering our strategy, diversifying our earnings base and contributing to stronger, long-term financial performance across the markets in which we operate".

Jamie Aitkenhead, an analyst at Edison, said: "The Opus acquisition will see the company build gas units in the coming years which have a better strategic fit with the current direction of government incentives."

What the company said

Thompson added: “We are playing a vital role in helping change the way energy is generated, supplied and used as the UK moves to a low carbon future.

With the right conditions, we can do even more, converting further units to run on compressed wood pellets. This is the fastest and most reliable way to support the UK’s decarbonisation targets, whilst minimising the cost to households and businesses.

“In a challenging commodity environment Drax has delivered a good operational performance with 65 per cent renewable power generation."

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