13 Jul 2012

Canterbury lines company bids again for 10% price rise

6:06 am on 13 July 2012

Central Canterbury power lines company Orion says it is making another attempt to gain permission to raise prices by 10% to cover earthquake damage.

The Orion group has made $54.4 million profit after tax in the year to the end of March, although more than $20 million was from a one-off insurance payout.

However, Orion chair Craig Boyce says it still has to meet a $70 million quake bill and cover a 15% drop in power usage.

Mr Boyce says the company will take a case to the Commerce Commission to raise prices by 10% in a case he says will test the law because it is the first relating to a natural disaster.

Mr Boyce says future profits are expected to be lower due to higher post-quake repair bills, which will mainly be funded by debt.

At present the firm has debt of $50 million, he says, and that is expected to quadruple to $200 million over the next five years because of the heavy capital programme and lower profitability.

The Government in February this year rejected a push by Orion's its city council owner to be allowed to quickly raise prices.

The Orion electricity distribution network in central Canterbury is owned by Christchurch City Council, which has an almost 90% stake, and Selwyn District Council.