How finance and sustainability go hand in hand
Thanks to our financial position, we are able to continue to invest in our networks and grow the business. This enables us to pursue our strategy and play a facilitating role in the energy transition. Our financial policy is designed to allow us to maintain a solid A rating. We see that, alongside a sound financial policy, shareholders and other investors are increasingly focusing on sustainability performance. Alliander supports the significance of sustainability and so the company’s sustainability targets play a prominent role in the management of the business and external financing. With this in mind, in June 2020 Alliander issued a new green bond loan. As a result, 60% of our senior bonds are now green. Our sustainability efforts have been rewarded with a sustainability classification of B+ by rating agency ISS ESG and a Medium Risk classification by Sustainalytics.
Alliander’s financial framework is formed by the FFO/net debt, interest cover, net debt/net debt plus equity and solvency ratios. These ratios, coupled with the norms against which they are measured, are crucial in obtaining and retaining a solid A rating profile on a standalone basis. In a departure from IFRS, when calculating the ratios, the subordinated perpetual bond loan is treated as 50% equity and 50% debt.
Ratios on the basis of Alliander’s financial policy
31 December 2020
31 December 2019
Net debt/(net debt + equity)
The funds from operations (FFO)/net debt ratio is the 12-month profit after tax adjusted for deferred tax movements and incidental items and fair value movements plus depreciation of property, plant and equipment and amortisation of intangible assets and accrued income, as a percentage of net debt.
The interest cover ratio concerns the 12-month profit after tax, adjusted for the movements in the deferred tax assets and liabilities, for the incidental items and fair value movements, plus the depreciation and amortisation of property, plant and equipment and intangible assets and the net amount of finance income and expense, divided by net finance income and expense adjusted for incidental items and fair value movements.
The solvency ratio is obtained by dividing equity including the profit for the period less the expected dividend distribution for the current financial year by total assets less deferred income.
As at 31 December 2020, the FFO/net debt ratio amounted to 24.1% (year-end 2019: 29.0%) compared with a required minimum of 20%. The decrease can be attributed to the increase in the net debt position, in combination with the lower result due to COVID-19 and the higher tariffs charged by TenneT.
As at 31 December 2020, the interest cover ratio worked out at 14.2 (year-end 2019: 13.3). Alliander’s financial policy stipulates that this ratio should be a minimum of 3.5.
The ratio of net debt/(sum of net debt and equity) as at 31 December 2020 amounted to 38.7% (year-end 2019: 36.5%). Alliander’s financial policy stipulates that this ratio should not exceed 60%. The increase is mainly due to a more substantial net debt position, including the green bond loan of €500 million issued by Alliander in 2020.
The solvency ratio as at 31 December 2020 amounted to 53.1% (year-end 2019: 55.6%) compared with a required minimum of 30%. The decrease compared with 2019 is mainly due to the increase in assets as a result of investment.
The dividend policy (as part of the financial policy) provides for distributions of up to 45% of the profit after tax, adjusted for non-cash incidental items, unless the investments required by regulators or financial criteria demand a higher profit retention percentage and unless the solvency ratio falls below 30% after payment of dividend. For more information, see the Proposed profit appropriation for 2020.
The investment policy is consistent with the financial policy and is part of Alliander’s strategy. Elements of investment policy include compliance with regulatory requirements relating to investments in the regulated domain, such as safety and reliability, and the generation of an adequate return on investment. Ordinary investment proposals are tested against minimum return requirements and criteria as set out in the financial policy. Innovative schemes require specific Management Board approval. As well as quantitative standards, investment proposals must also satisfy qualitative requirements. It should also be noted that, in principle, investments in the regulated domain arise from a network operator’s statutory duties.
Alliander makes a major contribution to the prosperity of the Netherlands, indirectly through the considerable impact that the distribution of energy has for the Dutch economy and for the quality of life experienced through the permanent availability of energy. This is further explained in our impact model in the Contribution to Global Goals chapter. The dividend distributed to shareholders and payments to providers of capital and government authorities make an indirect contribution to social goals. The way these items are allocated and used is set out below.
Our financial stakeholders
Alliander pursues an active policy of maintaining an open and constructive dialogue with shareholders, bondholders, financial institutions, credit rating agencies, sustainability rating agencies, analysts, and the media. We try to provide all stakeholders with timely and accurate relevant information on finances, strategy, risks, sustainability and other matters, in reports, in press releases, and in meetings, as well as by other means.
All of Alliander’s shares are held directly by Dutch provincial and municipal authorities. A full list of the shareholders can be found on www.alliander.com. The authorised share capital of Alliander N.V. is divided into 350 million shares with a nominal value of €5 each. All the shares are registered shares. As at 31 December 2020, there were 136,794,964 issued and paid-up shares. Contact with shareholders primarily takes place during the shareholders’ meetings. The company and its shareholders also meet outside of the shareholders’ meetings. A summary of the various shareholder dialogue structures can be found on the Alliander website.
Institutional investors in our bond issues, such as asset managers, insurance companies and pension funds provide a large part of our loan financing. These are mostly Europe-based professional players on the international financial markets. We keep existing and potential bondholders informed of the company’s financial position and results, as well as developments in the industry by actively engaging in Investor Relations activities in addition to complying with ordinary publication requirements. In this context, late in February 2020 we met with investors in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and London to discuss the 2019 figures. In September 2020, we held a conference call on the half-year figures. Various topics were discussed on both occasions, including the energy transition, the increase in investments, our financial and dividend policy, the new regulatory period and the impact of COVID-19 on Alliander.
Alliander has access to a committed back-up credit facility of €600 million. The facility, which runs to July 2023, has been entered into with six banks. As in previous years, this facility was not drawn on during the year.
Alliander has a loan from the European Investment Bank totalling €300 (with tranches received in 2017 and 2018). The loan becomes repayable in full in 2031.
In order to retain ready access to the capital and money markets, it is important for existing and potential financiers to have an accurate picture of Alliander’s creditworthiness. Alliander uses credit ratings for this. Having a credit rating is also an obligation under the terms of the cross-border lease contracts Alliander entered into at the end of the 1990s. Alliander has credit ratings from S&P and Moody’s. These ratings comprise a long-term rating with an outlook, and a short-term rating. The outlook is an indication of the expected change in the long-term rating over the next few years. S&P and Moody’s have kept both ratings and outlook unchanged. The credit ratings as at year-end 2020 were as follows:
Standard & Poor's
AA- (stable outlook)
Aa2 (stable outlook)
During the reporting period, Alliander was in contact with the rating agencies on several occasions. Topics discussed included the upcoming regulatory period, the challenges presented by the climate objectives and the energy transition, the increase in investments, potential shareholder support and the impact of COVID-19 on Alliander. Based on the recent financial performance and forecast figures for Alliander presented on these occasions, S&P and Moody’s reassessed Alliander’s creditworthiness and confirmed the existing ratings and outlook for the current regulatory period.
Rating agencies also assess our performance in the area of sustainable business practices. ISS ESG awarded us a B+ classification (year-end 2020). This is the highest classification ISS ESG has awarded to any of the companies it assesses in the network sector. In addition, we were also awarded a medium risk classification by Sustainalytics (year-end 2020).