Circular debt threatens sustainability of power supply chain – Abdulaziz Aljomaih

Abdulaziz Hamad Aljomaih, representing Aljomaih Group of Saudi Arabia with major shareholdings in K-Electric, Pakistan’s only private and vertically integrated utility, held a range of high-level meetings in Islamabad and Karachi during recent visit to Pakistan, including the Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Arif Alvi, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Privatization Minister Mohammedmian Soomro and Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan. Appreciating the assurances of the Government of Pakistan towards resolution of KE’s long-standing issues, he said, “biggest challenge is the issue of pending receivables which have now crossed PKR 275 billion from government and related entities. The current management turned a loss-making, under-invested company into a profitable entity post privatisation. But in 2020 (KE) reported a loss again due to the financial impact of these pending payments which also threaten the sustainability of the power supply chain”.

He also shared that KE has pumped more than USD 3.3 billion into Karachi’s power infrastructure. The company is also progressing full-throttle with the USD650 million 900 MW BQPS-III power plant and transmission upgrades to evacuate additional power supply from the national grid despite consistent delays in payments. “(It) is critical that all investment roadblocks including payment delays and pending approvals are addressed as these delay new projects and investments.”

Abdulaziz Aljomaih was the main driver of the privatization process of the company back in 2005 and has served as the first Chairman of the Board of Directors post KESC’s privatization. For the last fifteen years he is one of the largest investors in KES Power – the holding company with controlling stake of 66.4% in K-Electric today. In response to a question about Aljomaih Holdings, Abdulaziz told that the Conglomerate was established in 1936 and since then has been a major industrial and business enterprise in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia having longstanding partnerships with global giants such as General Motors, Pepsi Cola, Shell, Yokohama, and many other American, European and Japanese international companies.

Despite probable discontent with how this consortium of international investors has been treated in Pakistan by various government quarters Aljomaih remained optimistic and reiterated, “The investors in KE remain committed to powering Karachi even though we have not earned anything in the last fifteen years. The company made losses for the first ten years and when it started making profits we opted to re-invest every single penny back into the business. This has enabled KE to transform into a top of the line and forward-looking utility. We feel it is now time for it to transition to a technical investor with utility expertise to help it take the leap to the next level”. Replying to a question about the decision to invest in Pakistan, and in KESC, he said, “For us investing in Karachi, the thriving city and economic hub of the country, was investment in the prosperity of Pakistan and it’s people. We knew this would not be an easy investment, but we also knew that based on the historical relations that our two brotherly countries have, Aljomaih Group wanted to be involved.”

Abdulaziz Aljomaih attributed KE’s transformation story from a loss-making entity to major financial and operational interventions from the investors and the new management. This resulted in improved generation efficiency by 25%, and reduction in transmission and distribution (T&D) losses from 35.9% (2010) to 19.7%(2020) and technological upgrades. He linked both KE and Karachi’s future prosperity to culmination of Shanghai Electric Power transaction pending since 2016 saying that he has raised this issue in almost every meeting in Islamabad and Karachi. He also confidently shared, “We think the utility will benefit from a long term partner like SEP. The transaction that has been lingering since 2016, when completed will open doors to new investment of billions of dollars, further benefiting not just Karachi but all of Pakistan.”

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