International Power PLC
International Power PLC
Sales: £1.1 billion
Stock Exchanges: London New York
Ticker Symbol: IPR
NAIC: 221122 Electric Power Distribution; 221112 Fossil Fuel Power Generation; 221119 Other Electric Power Generation
International Power PLC is the largest of the three main electricity-generating companies created from the breakup of the nationalized electricity industry in England and Wales. Carved out as a separate division of the Central Electricity Generating Board in 1989 as privatization loomed, International Power was incorporated as a public limited company (PLC) in 1990 and the majority of its shares were sold to the public a year later. International Power, Nuclear Electric, and PowerGen became the big three electricity generators in England and Wales. By the mid-1990s, International Power’s and PowerGen’s market shares were decreasing and continued to decline as the industry became more competitive. While International Power is likely to continue to hold a significant niche in the home energy market, the company is also looking to allied ventures for new areas of growth, in particular the opportunities offered in international power markets.
Commercial Electricity, National Policy, and the Creation of National Power
Electricity was first harnessed for practical use in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century with the introduction of street lighting in 1881. By 1921, over 480 authorized but independent electricity suppliers had sprung up throughout England and Wales, creating a rather haphazard system operating at different voltages and frequencies. In recognition of the need for a more coherent, interlocking system, the Electricity (Supply) Act of 1926 created a central authority to encourage and facilitate a national transmission system. This objective of a national grid was achieved by the mid-1930s.
The state consolidated its control of the utility with the Electricity Act of 1947, which collapsed the distribution and supply activities of 505 separate bodies into 12 regional boards, at the same time assigning generating assets and liabilities to one government-controlled authority. A further Electricity Act in 1957 created a statutory body, the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB), which dominated the whole electricity system in England and Wales. Generator of virtually all the electricity in the two countries, the CEGB, as owner and operator of the transmission grid, supplied electricity to the area boards, which they in turn distributed and sold within their regions.
This situation continued for 30 years, until the government mooted the idea of privatizing the electricity industry in 1987. The proposal became the Electricity Act of 1989, and a new organizational scheme was unveiled. The CEGB was splintered into four divisions, destined to become successor companies: National Power, PowerGen, Nuclear Electric, and the National Grid Company (NGC). National Power and PowerGen were to share between them England and Wales’ fossil-fueled power stations; Nuclear Electric was to take over nuclear power stations; and the NGC was to be awarded control of the national electricity distribution system. The 12 Area boards were converted, virtually unchanged, into 12 Regional Electricity Companies (RECs), and these were given joint ownership of the NGC. At the end of 1990 the shares of the RECs were the first to be sold to the public. The majority of National Power and PowerGen’s shares were offered for sale the following year, though the government retained ownership of 40 percent of each of the new companies’ shares.
National Power before and after Industry Privatization
In order to understand National Power’s role within the electricity industry it is helpful to understand how the system operated until the extensive changes brought on by the Utilities Act of 2000. The provision of electricity consisted of four components: generation, transmission, distribution, and supply. In England and Wales, generation was the province of National Power, Powergen, and Nuclear Electric. Transmission is the transfer of electricity via the national grid through overhead lines, underground cables, and NGC substations. Distribution was the delivery of electricity from the national grid to local distribution systems operated by the Regional Electricity Companies. Supply, a term distinct from distribution in the electricity industry, refers to the transaction whereby electricity is purchased from the generators and transmitted to customers. Under the terms of its license, National Power had the right to supply electricity directly to consumers, but in the company’s earlier years that right was little exercised. National Power’s usual customers were the RECs, which in turn sold the electricity to the end users.
A new trading market was devised with the privatization scheme for bulk sales of electricity from generators to distributors—the pool. A rather complicated pricing procedure existed in the pool: each generating station offered a quote for each half hour of the day, based on an elaborate set of criteria including the operating costs of that particular plant, the time of day, the expected demand for electricity, and the available capacity of the station. The NGC arranged these quotes in a merit order and made the decisions regarding when to call each plant into operation. The pool system was not relied upon exclusively, however the generators frequently made contractual arrangements with distributors for a specified period of time as a means of mutual protection against fluctuations in the pool price.
National Power’s position in the industry is a legacy of the comparative status it inherited with privatization. The undisputed leader of the industry, National Power provided nearly half the electricity supplied in England and Wales via its 40 power stations, boasting an aggregate Declared Net Capacity or Capability (DNC) of 29,486MW (a megawatt here is defined as the generating capacity of a power station in any given half hour). Its smaller rival PowerGen, in second place, had 18,764MW DNC. Nuclear Electric’s figure was 8,357MW, the National Grid Company controlled 2,088MW, and British Nuclear Fuels PLC, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, and small independent generators together accounted for about 2,900MW. Another, though limited, source was provided by linkages with the Scottish and French electricity systems, with which import or export deals were sometimes agreed. National Power and PowerGen between them thus controlled 78 percent of the electricity market in England and Wales, of which about 46 percent was held by National Power, with the majority of the rest controlled by Nuclear Electric.
Privatization of the utility was designed to promote a beneficial result through the free play of market forces. The introduction of competition in power generation, it was argued, would lead both to greater efficiency within the industry and to lower prices for the consumer. Within a few short years, however, concerns had arisen, as some critics of the scheme had predicted from the start. The creation of three big players holding such a significant majority of the electricity-generating market was never likely to embody the purest form of free market operations.
In 1994, the industry watchdog, the Office of Electricity Regulation (Offer), became concerned about National Power and PowerGen’s continuing dominance of the market. The market share of the big two had in fact declined since privatization, with National Power controlling some 33 percent and PowerGen holding less than 25 percent, but rumors were rife that Offer would refer them to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC). After six months of deliberation, Offer stopped short of that proceeding, but the regulator imposed strictures on the two generating companies, requiring that they should use all reasonable endeavors to sell a specified amount of generating capacity—in the case of National Power 3,000 to 4,000MW, or 15 percent, of its total power output—and submit to price capping for a period of two years.
The demand to sell a portion of its holdings was expected to cause little hardship to National Power. Moreover, the issue of which plant to sell when was left to the company’s discretion, provided it complied with Offer’s deadline of December 31, 1995. Thus the company would not be forced to make a disadvantageous sale. In preference to an outright sale, some speculated that National Power might arrange an asset exchange with a foreign power company. Another alternative under consideration was the demerger option, whereby a new company, designed to own and operate the capacity in question, could be created from a portion of National Power’s capital holdings.
The required price caps, ironically, were likely to prove less burdensome to National Power and PowerGen than to the state-owned Nuclear Electric and to small independents, both existing and potential. While Offer’s strictures caused the two largest players to lose around one-third of their market share, the companies retained their dominant position in the market. National Power and PowerGen had, in effect, continued to control the establishment of pool prices, and this was unlikely to change to any significant degree. Residential customers, who purchased their electricity through the RECs, saw little change in their electricity bills, while most major industrial customers, who purchased straight from the pool, saw their prices fall 20 percent. While the potential for price hikes existed in long-term forecasts, given the costs of an environmental cleanup, the company hoped to offset such increases with greater efficiency.
International Power is a leading independent power producer that generates enough electricity to light millions of homes around the world. We have the resources and skills to play an active role in all phases of the power generation chain, including development, construction, operation, and trading and marketing.
The government, apart from its concerns about fair competition and price, was especially eager to resolve any controversy or questions regarding National Power and PowerGen to clear the way for the sale of its remaining 40 percent share in each of the two companies. The sell-off to the public in February 1995 raised a welcome £4 billion for the government, some £2.5 billion of which was attributable to National Power. Controversy dogged the two generators right to the end, however, as spiraling prices in the electricity pool, albeit over a period of only a month, prompted Offer to delay publication of the share prospectus.
The Shift from Coal to Gas
The electricity industry was slowly but dramatically changing in the 1990s. While plans were being laid to modernize and improve power generation, coal- and oil-fired plants remained the mainstay of the utility. Most of the stations National Power inherited after privatization were products of the 1960s and 1970s (with the notable exception of the 1980s-vintage Drax). British-mined coal remained, in 1995, the overwhelmingly dominant fuel source, but National Power, like others in the industry, was exploring a more diversified fuel base.
The company was slowly reducing the stockpiles of coal accumulated in the days of government ownership when the CEGB bought more generously than necessary from the British Coal Corporation. Since privatization National Power had already shut down some coal-fired plants. Some capability was made redundant by excess generating capacity, and more was jettisoned in favor of the trend toward combined cycle gas turbine plant (CCGT) during the so-called dash for gas. National Power’s first CCGT plant, at Killingholme, South Humberside, was completed in 1993. One in North Wales followed in 1994, with another in Bedfordshire expected in 1995, and yet another in Oxfordshire in 1996. Moreover, a fifth CCGT plant was in the early planning stages. More closures of coal-fired plants were likely as the new CCGT stations came online.
Linked economic and environmental factors motivated the move to gas. Environmental improvements were urgently needed in the energy industry—the issue was long ignored in the state sector. Regulations emanating from both London and Brussels were becoming increasingly stringent and were making coal increasingly unattractive. Despite the availability of technology designed to reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions from coal-fired stations (the primary cause of acid rain), for example, it was often more economically advantageous to simply replace these stations with CCGT plants. The exception during this time was Drax, National Power’s massive North Yorkshire coal-fired power station, which supplied approximately 10 percent of England’s and Wales’ electricity. In the biggest project of its kind in the world, National Power was cleaning up the plant through the implementation of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) retrofits, designed to significantly reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions. The effort began even before privatization but was not expected to be completed until 1996. Costing an estimated £65.8 billion, the station was expected to result in a 90 percent reduction in harmful emissions.
To the dismay of the beleaguered British coal industry, National Power, like the other electricity generators, continued to look at the import of foreign coal for use in its stations. Foreign-mined coal was not only potentially cheaper but in general had a significantly lower-sulfur content than its British counterpart, thus obviating the need for expensive desulfurization equipment.
With gas as an increasingly popular and sensible option for the energy industry, National Power also took steps to ensure its own reliable and cost-effective supply; in 1991 alone the company arranged to buy the entire output from the Caister field in the North Sea, made a 15–year deal with Norwegian suppliers, and made another deal with Ranger Oil in the United Kingdom. The company was also involved in gas exploration, having a 25 percent stake in a consortium led by Total Oil Marine which was exploring a block in the southern North Sea. Even wind power was being investigated and employed, though on a very small scale as of the mid-1990s. The subsidiary National Wind Power Ltd. was established in 1991 and was expected to be producing 250MW by the end of the century.
National Power’s Expanding Scope
National Power was also moving into the field of combined heat and power generation (CHP), another wave of the future for the energy industry. One of National Power’s business units, National Power Cogen, was responsible for the development of schemes for such clients as Lancaster University, the chemical manufacturers Albright & Wilson Ltd., the paper manufacturers SCA, and Sterling Organics Ltd., makers of paracetemol.
National Power branched out into the industrial property business in 1993, leasing land at its Eggborough power station to an air separation plant, Air Gas Products. The mutually profitable idea behind the arrangement was that new factories, conveniently located, could tap directly into their power source, therefore rendering unnecessary the need for a middleman in the form of a regional electricity company.
- National Power is made a separate division of the Central Electricity Generating Board CEGB.
- National Power is incorporated as a public limited company in the United Kingdom.
- National Wind Power Ltd. is established to investigate wind power.
- National Power completes its first combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant in Killingholme, South Humberside; National Power purchases American National Power in the United States, serving Virginia, Georgia, and New Jersey; National Power branches out into the industry property business and leases land at its Eggborough power station to Air Gas Products.
- The company’s bid for Southern Electric is blocked by the British government.
- National Power is listed among the top 25 developers in Independent Energy.
- National Power purchases Midlands Electricity in North Yorkshire and sells Drax to the AES Corporation of Arlington, Virginia for US$3 billion; the demerger of National Power creates International Power PLC and Innogy PLC, with International Power managing the international portfolio of the utility’s emerging markets.
- International Power PLC is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
- The company establishes an office in South Africa.
National Power also looked to the international arena for its future growth. The CEGG’s overseas activities in its state sector days were restricted almost exclusively to consulting projects carried out by the subsidiary British Electricity International Ltd. After privatization, with its share of the home market dwindling, National Power substantially boosted its international profile. The creation of a full-fledged division within National Power devoted to researching and developing overseas business strategies and opportunities via a 1993 internal restructure is indicative of the company’s vision of its future.
American National Power Established in the United States
In 1993 the company moved into the United States with the purchase of American National Power for £103 million. A well-established and successful enterprise, American National Power operated in Virginia, Georgia, and New Jersey. National Power’s other major foreign ventures included Portugal’s Pego power station, owned by a consortium led by National Power, and a £64 million investment in an oil-fired power station project in Pakistan. While National Power’s international presence was still young, the company was confident of its prospects. Independent financial commentators tended to agree. Blessed as the company was with healthy cash reserves, and clearly aware of the tremendous potential of the international market, National Power could expect to be well compensated through such wise investments.
A look at National Power’s 1995 sales figures showed a mixed but generally optimistic prospect. On one hand, the company’s market share was much reduced and electricity prices were down, and capital expenditure was up due to investments in new plants and environmental improvements. Nevertheless, costs to the company were dramatically reduced due to a rigorous, some might say ruthless, cost-cutting program implemented since privatization. Under the plan, rationalization and increased efficiency measures decisively chopped operational costs, fuel supply expenses were pared, and staff costs were drastically slashed (the pre-privatization workforce of 17,000 was just over 5,000 in 1995). As a result National Power saw consistently rising profits despite continually falling market share.
Poised for Expansion
Controller of nearly half of Britain’s electricity market at the end of 1990, National Power had only a third of that market four years later, and the company’s share was expected to diminish still more as competition increased. Nonetheless, National Power would likely remain a significant force in U.K. power generation as the company continued to improve and adapt to meet changing conditions in the energy industry. Furthermore, with a strong cash base to support an avowed and active interest in overseas projects, National Power was poised for international expansion.
The first attempted expansion effort began within the United Kingdom when in 1996, National Power bid for Southern Electric at the same time that PowerGen bid on Midlands Electricity PLC. According to the Economist, these transactions were overruled by the British government after the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC), Britain’s antitrust watchdog, had approved the bid. The MMC apparently allowed the bid to proceed with some reservations, stating that the mergers “may be expected to operate against the public interest.” As a result, the MMC came under fire in the media for failing to understand that huge vertical mergers between generators and distributors would reduce rather than increase competition and keep prices high.
By 1998 National Power PLC had more than 10,000MW operating, along with 8,000MW of equity, and was listed among the top 25 developers in Independent Energy. The publication credited the company’s early international acquisitions and greenfield developments as pivotal to its being a strong force in coming years. The company continued its expansion by taking a stake in Malaysian power generator Malakoff Bhd, and added another 18 percent stake to its 48 percent share in Czech power producer Elektrarny Opatovice. National Power also entered into a joint venture with EuroGas Inc. to develop a gas-fired combined heating plant (CHP) in western Poland.
In another attempt to expand within the United Kingdom, National Power bid for Midlands Electricity in 1999, and was given a conditional go-ahead by regulators. Because of competition concerns Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Stephen Beyers declared that National Power would have to sell its 4,000MW Drax coal-fired power station and create a new system of “earn out” payments from Texas Utilities’ Eastern Group before the bid could proceed. (Eastern had bought 4,000MW of capacity from National Power in June 1996 for a down payment and continued payments over eight years that were calculated through a formula based on actual output.) Drax was the largest coal-fired plant in Europe and was estimated to be worth about £2 billion. With full approval from its shareholders, National Power divested Drax to the AES Corporation of Arlington, Virginia for US$3 billion. At that time, AES owned power plants or sold electricity in 23 countries and had had operations in the United Kingdom for ten years.
This same year found National Power involved in many other kinds of new business. Ground was broken in Blackstone, Massachusetts for a 589MW gas-fired merchant power plant and was reported by Business Wire to be among the world’s cleanest power plants. Joseph Fitzpatrick, senior vice-president of American National Power, stated, “This will be the largest power plant investment in the state in 25 years and will meet state-of-the-art environmental compliance in the United States.” National Power also delved into fuel cell technology with the SRT Group, Inc. and the U.S. Department of Energy. As reported in Battery & EV Technology, the technology “allowed the production of inexpensive hydrogen while co-providing a reduction in on-peak energy costs.”
Fuel cell technology in the United Kingdom focused on “regenerative fuel cell electrical energy that can be converted into chemical potential energy by charging, and releasing the stored energy on discharge,” as explained in Modern Power Systems. The publication further noted, “National Power has developed a new regenerative fuel cell system and a 15MW/120MWh (megawatt hours) utility scale storage energy plant based on the technology being built at Didcot. It is believed that this will be one of the largest energy storage plants of its kind in the world.”
National Power’s Decision to Demerge
By November of 1999, National Power was mired in financial woes brought about by unfortunate foreign investments and regulatory pressures. The company pulled out of its multibillion-dollar Malaysian power project, deciding not to buy a 20 percent stake in the 2,420MW Kapar power station, and sold two power stations to rival companies. Dividends to shareholders were also reduced. Europe Energy reported, “National Power ended months of speculation over its strategy by announcing a demerger of international business from its domestic operations and the return of up to 600 million pounds (Euro 973 million) of capital to its shareholders.” The publication also quoted Chairman John Collins, “The board considers that the proposed demerger represents the best way forward for the company and for our shareholders. It is now the right time for them to be established as highly focused individual entities.” Collins’ announcement followed the departure of Chief Executive Graham Henry who resigned to take responsibility for a loss in investor confidence in the company. The demerger created International Power PLC and Innogy PLC—the United Kingdom generating assets, with International Power consisting of the international portfolio of emerging markets of the utility.
The new CEO of International Power (IP), Peter Giller, expressed his enthusiasm on taking over the new company by volunteering to become the first British corporate chief to be paid entirely in stock. As reported in Energy Daily, he received nearly US$2.9 million in stock as his base pay for his first three years. He was also due to be paid an additional US$1.44 million in shares for every 20 percent increase in the company’s stock price, although he would not get the extra shares unless IP’s stock price went up at least 52 percent and the company’s earnings per share rose by at least 21 percent over the three-year period. If all these performance goals were met Giller was to receive another stock bonus worth US$2.9 million. The catch was that Giller could not cash in any stocks for a year and would have to go without salary and benefits during that time. Judging from the rapid acquisitions and climbing profit, this remuneration arrangement apparently demonstrated that Giller applied himself to building International Power’s scope, profitability, and status.
Giller noted in Energy Daily that volatility in an energy market, such as the rapidly rising prices in California in 2000, is not alluring. “What we need is a decent average price,” he said. “You can’t survive just on needle-peaks.” Giller was evaluating Chicago and the upper-Midwest areas as potential untapped markets, and was also interested in New England and New York.
By April 2001, IP was growing steadily more geographically diverse with 50 percent in the United States, 20 percent in Australia, 17 percent in Spain, and with potential developments in Malaysia, Quator, Oman, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Portugal, and South Africa. Two of the most important acquisitions took place shortly after the demerger. Through its Australian National Power subsidiary, the company paid £32.4 million (A $88 million) for a 19.9 percent stake from Scottish Power, which increased its stake in the Hazelwood power station in Australia from 71.9 percent to 91.8 percent. International Power also purchased the 1,000MW Staffordshire-based Rugeley power plant in the United Kingdom from TXU Europe for US$280 million. The Africa News Service reported in April 2001 that International Power had established an office in South Africa to evaluate investing in the state-owned electricity group Eskom or to establish an independent power producer. The publication further noted that Malcolm Wrigley, regional director of International Power in Southern Africa, was interested in investing in South Africa because the country had a stable economy with independent courts and a reasonable rule of law. Following this flurry of investments, the company reported in June 2001 that its first quarter profits were up by 50 percent, and the Wall Street Journal reported that its pre-tax profits for the first quarter of 2001 rose to £98million (EUR 155.3 million).
As stated in Power Economics, “Sir Neville Sims, chairman, said the strong results were as a result of the commissioning of plants in the U.S., the strength of operations in Australia, and continuing opportunities in Europe.” In July International Power sold its 25 percent equity interest in Union Fenosa Generation, a major Spanish power producer, to Union Electrica Fenosa, a major Spanish power company and the majority owner, for US$560 million in cash. International Power realized more than a US$45 million return on its investment made in 1999. The year 2001 also saw International Power involved with Abu Dhabi’s largest independent power and water project through the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority for the 15,000MW and 100–million gallon-per-day Shuweihat plant. IP partnered with CMS of the United States for a 40 percent stake in the US$1.6 million project.
International Power’s pre-tax profit for the first nine months of 2001 came to £186 million, up from the £80 million loss during the same period the year before as National Power. Project Finance pointed out, “International Power has stuck to its strategy of growth in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East and Australia, claiming that the geographical spread of its operations will protect it from any market downturn.” The publication expressed hope that this geographically diverse approach would be effective, especially since IP was heavily involved with two power plants in Pakistan, yet reluctantly admitted that these were about to pay a dividend for the first time in three years. International Power had a 26 percent stake in the Hub River project, the 1,292MW residual fuel oil-fired plant 45km from Karachi, and a 36 percent stake in Kot Addu, a 1,600MW CCGT plant in the Punjab region. The dividends were small but relevant to IP as the resolution of power issues in Pakistan were International Power’s first major success after the demerger according to IP’s London Media Relations Officer, Aarti Singhal.
Peter Barlow, director of finance at International Power in London, stated in Project Finance, “We have assumed that we will get no income out of Pakistan and that is reflected in our credit rating. These dividends are too small to make a difference but they are a demonstration of our relationship with the Water and Power Development Agency (WAPDA).” In spite of tensions in the Middle East, International Power remained positive about its investments, including the US$1.6 billion Shuweihat IWPP power and desalination plant in Abu Dhabi, and has about US$100 million invested in the project. Barlow stated in Project Finance, “We still feel that there is substantial opportunity in new build in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi is stable politically and is the best credit risk in the region.” However, the major focus of IP’s investment has been in the United States where there are now five operating power plants at Hart well, Oyster Creek, Milford, Bayonne, and Midlothian, with a further 2,790MW of gross capacity under construction. International Power is expected to have at least 50 percent of its assets in the United States, all of which will be merchant risk. However, Barlow notes that future development will not be in Texas or Massachusetts where all other U.S. plants were established.
American International Power PLC; Australian International Power PLC; Hub Power Company (HUBCO) (Pakistan; 26%); Kot Addu Power Company (KAPCO) (Pakistan; 36%); Malakoff (Malaysia; 20%); Uni-Mar (Turkey; 33%).
AES; Mirant; Tractebel.
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—update: Annette Dennis McCully