State-owned freight logistics group Transnet, which invested a record R31.8-billion last year, is planning to invest a further R33-billion in 2014/15 and says it has no intention, at this stage, of pulling back from its R307.5-billion Market Demand Strategy (MDS), despite the sluggish South African economy.
The company’s rating had being downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, following the rating agency’s recent downgrade of South Africa, and Molefe revealed that the downgrade would force a re-pricing of about R8-billion of Transnet’s current debt, which would add a cost of about R41-million to future borrowings.
Transnet’s total borrowings stood at R90.4-billion, with R22.4-billion in new debt having been raised in 2013/14. It planned to raise a further R22-billion in the current financial year, mostly from the domestic bond market, as well as from development finance institutions and export credit agencies.
Speaking against the backdrop of record profit of R5.2-billion, supported in part by a 12.8% rise in revenue to R56.6-billion, Molefe stressed that it saw no immediate need to pare down the MDS, which had been designed to modernise and expand South Africa’s rail, harbours and pipeline networks.
“The assets that we are procuring have a life of 50 years. So we are not procuring for this cycle of low growth, we are procuring for a much longer time [horizon].”
Molefe also stressed that the group’s gearing at 45.9% was below its 50% target, while its cash-interest cover of 3.7 times was above its three-times-cover limit.
“We are not about to bust our gearing ratios, our interest-cover multiple – if those are under threat, we will revise the MDS numbers down. So we are not going to borrow until the company’s bankrupt so that we can fund the MDS,” Molefe indicated.
Volumes were, however, below forecast and a rise in revenue had been made possible mainly through market-share gains. The group reported a 25.2% rise in volumes, underpinned by an increase in automotive and container volumes, with coal and iron-ore volumes falling by 1% and 3% respectively.
Coal export volumes fell to 68.2-million tons from 69.2-million tons in the previous year, owing to a decline in coal prices, a nine-day power disruption at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal and some industrial action on the coal corridor. Together the strike and the power disruption lopped about 3-million tons off the export figure.
The decline in iron-ore volumes, to 54.3-million tons, from 55.9-million tons, was attributed to production problems at Kumba Iron Ore. But iron-ore related revenue was less affected, owing to the fact hat Transnet had tax-or-pay contracts with the iron-ore mines.
Transnet expected rail volumes to rise further as new locomotives were introduced, with a further 122 electric and diesel and 2 704 wagons expected to be added to the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) fleet during the current financial year.
In addition, TFR was gearing up for the introduction of diesel and electric locomotives to arise from the so-called ’10-64 programme’, with the R50-billion package having been awarded in March to consortiums led by China South Rail (CSR) Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive, Bombardier Transportation South Africa, General Electric (GE) South Africa Technologies and China North Rail (CNR) Rolling Stock South Africa.
CSR, which would supply 359 electric locomotives, and GE South Africa, which had been contracted to supply a further 233 diesellocomotives, would assemble the vehicles at Transnet Engineering’s facility in Koedoespoort, near Pretoria. Bombardier Transportation South Africa, which would supply 240 electric locomotives, and CNR, which would supply 232 diesel locomotives, would establish assembly facilities in Durban.
Molefe said that all 1 064 locomotives would be introduced to the general freight fleet by the end of 2018.