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Shanxi firm to invest in UK power plant

By ZHENG XIN | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-23 08:22

A Shanxi-based company principally engaged in the coal business will invest 3 billion yuan ($440 million) in the Hinkley Point power plant in the United Kingdom.

Wintime Energy Co Ltd, a company principally engaged in the exploitation, operation, washing, selection and processing of coal, recently made the investment, together with China General Nuclear Power Corporation.

The two companies are to jointly carry out several clean energy projects, including Guangdong Lufeng Power Station, Hinkley Point C power plant and some non-nuclear power plants, according to a project cooperation agreement signed between the two companies on Nov 21.

CGN signed a final agreement on the 18 billion pound ($23.4 billion) Hinkley Point C power plant two months ago with the French utility EDF and the British government. The project has been hailed as a gateway to promote Chinese nuclear technology.

He Yu, chairman of CGN, said China's nuclear technology being used abroad will lead to more countries having confidence in Chinese reactors and pushing forward its global market development.

Wintime Energy, which mainly operates in the domestic market, will become a major partner of the Chinese investment consortium for the project by laying out 10 percent of the total investment in Hinkley Point, which is around 3 billion yuan.

Chinese power firms are currently pacing up mergers and acquisitions at home and abroad, motivated by their financial strength, poor domestic markets and policy support.

"The developers' balance sheets are now the strongest in at least five years, enhancing their financial strength for mergers and acquisitions," said Joseph Jacobelli, senior analyst with Asia Utilities and Infrastructure Research of Bloomberg Intelligence.

"China's power supply has grown at a pace faster than demand, leading to sinking plant utilization rates, especially for coal-fired power. Government policy also strongly supports local power companies' expansion abroad."

Profit reporting shows that the performance of domestic coal companies turned weaker than earlier expectations in 2015, due to overcapacity, poor demand and lower prices, with 39 listed coal companies reporting a net loss of 5.1 billion yuan in 2015, plummeting 1,120 percent year-on-year.

Wintime Energy Co Ltd, together with other 18 companies however, still reported net profit last year.

The company mainly operates in Shanxi province. In addition, it is also involved in hotel business, as well as the production and sale of building materials.

According to the company, participation in the overseas project, while in accordance with the government's going global strategy and in line with the Belt and Road Initiative, still presents certain risks in investment decision-making and management.

In addition, the challenge for Chinese enterprises related to the electric power industry in operating overseas may also lie with the understanding of the local market, especially in developed economies such as the UK, said Jacobelli.

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