South Africa’s Eskom in a debt crisis

02 August 2021 | Business

ALEXANDER WINNING

A debt crisis at South Africa's struggling state-owned utility Eskom could be solved by an agreement for government creditors to write off some of their loans in exchange for climate pledges and an equity injection, a deputy minister said on Friday.

But one analyst was sceptical about the idea, describing it as unrealistic. Officials in Africa's most industrialised nation have grappled for years with ways to lower Eskom's debt burden, which stood at R401 billion in March.

The company, which regularly implements power cuts that hold back economic growth, racked up the debt partly to pay for two mega coal plants dogged by delays and cost overruns.

Two options previously discussed are transferring some Eskom debt to the sovereign balance sheet or moving a portion to a special purpose vehicle.

But in comments at a meeting of the presidential climate commission, South Africa's Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo said he did not support those ideas.

Under the last proposal, creditors would forgive some sovereign loans in exchange for commitments to curb Eskom's emissions by closing some of its coal units and an equity injection into Eskom.

Masondo said the ideas were his personal views, not necessarily the official position of the National Treasury.

The National Treasury acknowledged an emailed request for comment from Reuters but did not answer questions in time for publication. An Eskom spokesman declined comment.

Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital markets research at Intellidex, said Masondo's suggestions risked confusing investors as they did not represent National Treasury or Eskom thinking. -Nampa/Reuters