Verbund focuses on investments despite capital increase row

Verbund chief Wolfgang Anzengruber has said planned investments might be delayed due to the continuing debate over a capital increase.The government has been at odds for weeks over whether it should console the energy provider with 500 million Euros in an overall one-billion-Euro capital increase. The Austrian State holds a 51 per cent interest in the company.A decision has been postponed after business newspapers already reported that ministers of the coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and People’s Party (ÖVP) had come to an agreement.Now it is rumoured SPÖ officials want Federal Railways (ÖBB) to receive half a billion Euros as well. The company is close to the State, and several board members have links to the Social Democrats.Anzengruber said today (Weds) Verbund would press on with investments into hydro power plants and new technologies, but warned that it could be forced to delay activities if the capital increase failed to happen.ÖVP Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner said he expected a decision over whether the coalition backed a capital increase in the next ministerial meeting set to take place after the parliamentary summer break on 24 August.Anzengruber said that the firm – Austria’s leading electricity company – saw a 5.1 per cent decline in sales revenue to 1.58 million Euros in the first half of this year, while operating results shrank by 28.4 per cent to 382.3 million Euros.The firm CEO cited low water supply and weak wholesale electricity prices as main reasons for the negative development.Verbund caused outcry earlier this year by raising the price for one kilowatt hour from 6.5 cent to 7.3 cent as of 1 May.Labour Chamber (AK) president Herbert Tumpel attacked the Vienna-based company for “putting new pressure on its customers”.Meanwhile, a survey by Eurostat, the European Commission’s (EC) statistics agency, found that the average price for energy provided to European Union (EU) households dropped by 1.5 per cent from the second half of 2008 to the same period of last year, whereas energy provided by Austrian companies soared by 7.7 per cent.The body also announced that gas became 1.5 per cent more expensive in the EU, while its price jumped by only 0.7 per cent in Austria.