Hastings-based electricity distributor Unison Networks has revealed its biggest jump in customers in a decade, enabling it to pay a record dividend.
In its latest Annual Report, the company published a robust annual result for the year ending March 31, 2018, with more than 1,100 new customers joining its lines network, which covers Hawke's Bay, Rotorua and Taupo.
Unison released its annual report today. This showed that the Group earned $94.1 million before interest, tax, depreciation and the impact of fair value movement of its derivative financial instruments (EBITDAF), up slightly on last year's result of $93.6 million.
Unison Group chairman Philip Hocquard said the board was pleased with the results.
"Rotorua, Taupo and Hawke's Bay are attractive places to live and work and the growth they are experiencing is keeping our teams busy. Pleasingly, growth is diversified across the residential, commercial and industrial sectors and across regions. This is not only good for Unison's business but reflects good opportunities for our communities.
"As a result of this growth, prudent cost management and Unison's strategic investments, Unison has been able to return another record dividend of $14.4 million for the year (up from $12.7m last year). This will be paid to the Hawke's Bay Power Consumers Trust in August."
The trust holds all the shares in Unison on behalf of consumers connected to Unison's electricity network in Hawke's Bay.
Mr Hocquard said that while the profit of $35.5 million was down on the previous year ($40.7 million in 2016/17), it would have been slightly ahead if not for the accounting impact of the fair value movement of derivative financial instruments.
Total group revenue grew to $248.5m, up from $224.5m
Over the year, Unison paid transmission charges to Transpower of $42.637m, and received line revenue from customers of $152.768m.
Hocquard said the board was particularly pleased with the result given the costs of repairing the network after three major storms hit during the year.
"We are seeing a reduction of power outages related to equipment failure, which are outages directly under Unison's control.
"However, the introduction of new Health and Safety laws has reduced the amount of time that our staff can work on live lines, and a change to the regulations requires Unison to wait at least 15 minutes before attempting to restore power after a fault has occurred on the network.
"These changes have meant that outage durations are significantly longer and make regulatory quality limits very difficult to meet even without the impact of severe weather events. In addition, car versus pole and other third-party incidents increased significantly on previous years.
"As a company that is very much a part of the communities we power, we are concerned about this increase in such incidents and are looking for opportunities to engage with the public and contractors about staying safe around our network."
"Longer-term we are confident that network reliability will improve as we continue to realise the benefits of our ISO 55001-certified asset management system and our smart network, both of which were both recognised externally this year."