EWN

The legal separation of South African state power firm Eskom into three business units could take four years in total, the company said in an internal presentation seen by Reuters.

President Cyril Ramaphosa promised to split Eskom into different units for generation, transmission and distribution earlier this year, as part of steps to make the struggling utility more efficient.

Eskom, which supplies more than 90% of the power in Africa’s most advanced economy, is reliant on state bailouts to survive and made a mammoth R20.7 billion loss in the most recent financial year.

The presentation also said a proposal to hive off Eskom’s transmission unit into a separate state-owned company could take up to five years.

It is not clear whether those timelines have been approved by Eskom’s board or the government.

An Eskom spokeswoman confirmed that the company’s “executive forum” met on 22 August and said Eskom was meeting stakeholders on its turnaround plan. She said aspects of that plan could change, depending on those meetings.

Fixing Eskom is one of the biggest challenges faced by Ramaphosa, whose economic reform drive has been jeopardised by power outages that have dented growth this year.

The root causes of Eskom’s financial woes lie partly in a steep run-up in its salary, fuel and debt-servicing costs over the past decade. But its financial performance has also been hurt by corruption and repeated tariff awards by the country’s energy regulator that are below what Eskom says it needs to recoup its costs.

Separately, Eskom said in a statement that it had met labour unions on Friday and would hold further meetings to strengthen relations.

Striking workers forced Eskom into power cuts last year during fraught wage negotiations. Some unions have said they are opposed to the plan to split Eskom because they think it will lead to job losses.