Rescue plan being finalised for South African utility Eskom

Firm has accumulated debt that equates to 7 per cent of country's gross domestic product

epa07800621 Power lines run from one of Eskom's coal fired power stations near Villiers, South Africa, 29 August 2019. The national power supplier is considering selling coal power stations to help settle Eskom's massive debt-burden.
In a document released by Treasury the government should sell Eskom's coal-fired power stations, possibly through a series of auctions, which could earn the state 450 billions Rands (about 27 billion euros). The national power grid has been under pereasure over the past decade resulting in high prices for power and power outages.  EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
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Debt-laden South African power utility Eskom Holdings has narrowed its search for a new chief executive as the government finalises a plan to rescue the business.

The measures are key in a state effort to overhaul what’s seen as the biggest threat to South Africa’s economy: the company has amassed 450 billion rand ($29.75 billion) of debt, equivalent to about 7 per cent of gross domestic product. Both are expected to be finalised next month: the deadline for the announcement of the CEO is October 31, while Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said this month the rescue plan would be announced within weeks.

Eskom has been looking for a new CEO since Phakamani Hadebe became the 10th person to vacate the post in as many years in July. Chairman Jabu Mabuza took on the role in an acting capacity until a permanent appointment is made.

Andy Calitz, who started his career as an electrical engineer at Eskom, is one of three people shortlisted to become the next CEO, according to two people familiar with the process who declined to be identified because the information isn’t public. Another is former CEO Jacob Maroga, one of the people said. They didn’t identify the third person on the list.

Dan Marokane, Eskom’s former head of group capital, is among the people who applied for the job, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said last month.

Eskom, which supplies about 95 per cent of South Africa’s power, has been granted 128 billion rand in state bailouts over the next three years to remain solvent. The government has proposed splitting the utility into generation, transmission and distribution units and is evaluating a range of options to reduce the costs of its debt and improve its performance.

The Department of Public Enterprises on Friday declined to commit to a date for the paper’s release.

“We will announce it at the appropriate time,” said Richard Mantu, a spokesman for the department said.

Eskom said an announcement will be made on the appointment by October 31, when the recruitment process ends. It declined to comment further.