Umgeni Water
  • Umgeni Water, the state company that supplies bulk water to Durban and Pietermaritzburg, reported a net profit of R620.5 million for the last six months of 2017 – breaking through R100 million a month in profit.
  • Its profits jumped by more than 44%.
  • That was despite a long-running drought – just declared to be over – that kept volumes down.
  • An effective 15.2% increase in the price of water helped.

In the last six months of 2017 Umgeni Water, the state-owned entity that supplies bulk water to Durban, Pietermaritzburg, and surrounds, turned an average net profit of R103.4 million, numbers it published on Wednesday shows.

Its profits for the half year were up 44.3% compared to the same period in 2016, at a total of R620.5 million.

The massive jump in profits was despite what Umgeni described as "the prevailing drought". Many of its customers were subject to mandatory water restrictions after years of low rainfall – until those restrictions were lifted on Tuesday.

See also: The City of Cape Town has just sold a rundown 2-bedroom bungalow for R20 million

That suggests Umgeni could sell significantly more water during 2018.

In the last six months of 2017 the volume of water it sold increased by only 2.5% compared to the previous year.

But the average effective price Umgeni charged municipalities for that water was up 15.2%, to around R6.14 per kilolitre, pushing up profits.

Umgeni is due to be merged with Mhlathuze Water as part of a rationalisation of water boards.

"In efforts to improve water supply efficiency in KZN, Umgeni Water will merge with Mhlathuze to form one regional water board," Umgeni said on Tuesday, in its commentary on its interim financial results.

Its latest figures show that Mhlathuze is also wildly profitable – and like Umgeni, it is also controversial.

Mhlathuze was the subject of a recent TV exposé about its spending on five-star hotels and business-class flights.

Umgeni's most recent major controversy came when it was appointed to implement national government measures to alleviate the Cape Town drought.

Dudu Myeni, infamous as chairperson of SAA and close confidant of former President Jacob Zuma, was appointed to oversee the amalgamation of the two.

Update: 29 March, 15:55
In response to this article, Shami Harichunder, corporate stakeholder manager at Umgeni Water, said Umgeni Water and Mhlathuze Water are not merging, but that the latter is being "dis-established" and that its staff, assets, and liabilities will be transferred to Umgeni Water.

He did not explain why Umgeni has consistently described it as a merger, including in its interim financial results days before.

Harichunder also pointed out that the drought still prevails in large parts of KwaZulu-Natal where interventions through water augmentation schemes have been implemented.

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