Sembcorp to book $212 million impairment on Chinese coal venture in first-half results

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SINGAPORE – Sembcorp Industries will book an impairment expense of $212 million in its first-half financial results, but it expects net profit to remain positive, the company announced before the market opened on Monday (Aug 2).

In its profit guidance, Sembcorp said the impairment will be made on its 49 per cent stake in Chongqing Songzao Sembcorp Electric Power, which is a joint venture between Sembcorp and Chongqing Power Investment Group in the city of Chongqing, China.

The impairment of $212 million represents the entire carrying value, or the original cost, of the asset.

Nevertheless, Sembcorp said it is still expecting to book an overall profit for the first half of the year.

Chongqing Songzao operates a 1,320MW coal-fired power plant in Chongqing. To operate the plant, the company had obtained its coal supply from Chongqing Power.

However, following a government directive for coal mines in the city to re-evaluate its coal mining operations in January, Chongqing Power closed all its coal mines in the city, forcing Chongqing Songzao to source coal from other provinces.

The loss of Chongqing Songzao’s mine-mouth advantage with Chongqing Power, which enabled it to operate its power plant next to the coal mines, has resulted in much higher logistics costs for the company.

In addition, coal prices have become increasingly volatile due to restrictions on production in China, even as demand rises. Government support for the industry has also been “uncertain and insufficient”, Sembcorp noted in its announcement.

“In the longer term, the asset is also to face competitive pressure from low carbon power sources,” it said.

Consequently, Chongqing Songzao is to record a net loss for the first half of the year as well as in 2021. The company turned in a profit of $19 million last year.

Sembcorp will be releasing its results for the half-year ended June 30 on Aug 6.

Its shares were trading at $2.06, down three cents, or 1.4 per cent, at 9.31am on Monday, after the announcement.

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