Eskom reports fourth straight loss as debt eases

31 August 2021 - 18:12 By Paul Burkhardt
Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter. File photo.
Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

State-owned power utility Eskom posted a fourth consecutive annual loss as it continued to service a mountain of debt, repaired ageing plants and lost electricity revenue because of a drop in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd’s loss narrowed to R18.9bn in the year through March, from R20.8bn a year earlier, CEO Andre de Ruyter said at a televised briefing on Tuesday.

After growing unabated for about 15 years, the utility’s gross debt fell 17% to R401.8bn, thanks to a cash injection from the government, but it remains unsustainably high and plans are being made to reorganise it.

Electricity dropped 6.7% because of lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, the company said in a statement. 

Eskom’s inability to provide sufficient power to meet the nation’s needs and its reliance on state bailouts to stay afloat have been a major drain on the economy. Its plans to build new capacity have been riven by corruption, cost overruns and government vacillation over what form of energy to use and the role private producers should play.

The government plans to split Eskom into transmission, generation and distribution units to make it easier to manage, while De Ruyter is taking steps to cut costs and stamp out the graft that’s plagued the company for years. He’s also trying to secure cheaper financing from development finance institutions in exchange for reducing the utility’s environmental footprint by increasing the use of renewable energy. 

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