ABB expects surge in orders to meet growing power demand: Leon Viljoen – MD, ABB Southern Africa

The company is involved in major power projects south of the equator.

SIKI MGABADELI: ABB Southern Africa reports that it’s on a strong growth path and expects a surge in orders to meet growing demand. This is despite its South African revenue growth falling to R4.9bn in the year compared to R5,9bn in 2013. Global revenue for the year also fell to $39.8bn. ABB says it has a strong order backlog and its African growth strategy is on course. It is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve their performance while lowering the environmental impact.
   Maybe Leon Viljoen can tell us if they’ve got a solution to our power problems. He is MD of ABB Southern Africa. Leon, thanks for your time this evening. In fact, that is something that you are looking at – solutions for energy supply problems. Not just for us but for other countries in the region.

LEON VILJOEN: Good evening, Siki, and to the listeners. Yes, ABB has got quite a lot of products and systems that can assist with the crisis in the sense of looking at micro-grids, possible grids that you can put in that will combine with quite a couple of energy sources to ensure that your whole plant can run off-grid. We haven’t really got a solution for a grid that is in trouble with under capacity.

SIKI MGABADELI: That’s our biggest crisis – also just efficiencies in making sure that things work and are kept in good working order.
   All right, let’s go back a little bit and talk about the past year for ABB Southern Africa. How would you describe the trading and economic environment in the regions that you operate in?

LEON VILJOEN: ABB South Africa is responsible for what we call Southern Africa – that’s south of the equator, and we’ve got a total of 11 offices in this region. We’ve seen quite a lot of development, specifically on the infrastructure power side, where just outside South Africa most countries are short of power. There has been quite a lot of political stability – I think the most we’ve seen in a very long time in southern Africa, and that has definitely assisted us to grow our business outside South Africa.

SIKI MGABADELI: And you’ve done some work in Zambia with the Kalumbila Mine, and the Cahora Bassa hydro plant in Mozambique. Just tell us a bit about that.

LEON VILJOEN: Ja, on the Cahora Bassa side, the Songo substation – that’s a converter station, and that’s really the other side, where this side of the line is the Apollo substation. So what we’ve done on that side we were commissioned to upgrade and refurbish that substation and we installed towards the end of last year quite big converter transformers in there. Those transformers are huge and take three months from Durban to get to Cahora Bassa. So we installed that and also upgraded the system around it. I think that station is extremely important for South Africa because a lot of our power or a big portion comes from Cahora Bassa to South Africa.

SIKI MGABADELI: All right. You had some impact from a mining strike last year, and you had your own wage strike. How did that affect you?

LEON VILJOEN: The mining strike impacted on most of our divisions, as we do a lot of business with the mines. And to have a big customer of ours not procuring for six months definitely had an impact on us. On the revenue side it impacted us on the wage strike, the metal industry strike …impacted us at our motor factory, and then also our medium voltage facility.

SIKI MGABADELI: How is the push towards the digitisation of communication platforms doing? I understand you’ve been in talks with some broadcasters as well – that side of your business.

LEON VILJOEN: That side of the business is really small, and we play a small part in that, and it’s really supplying some products to the manufacturers that supply those products. So it’s really on that side where we are even speaking to them about possible putting robots and things like that into production.

SIKI MGABADELI: Ah – that’s going to mean some of us are going to be out of a job. Thanks, Leon.
   David, we are going to get a lot of annual results coming.

DAVID SHAPIRO: ABB are not listed here. They used to be, I think, part of Powertech, but they are listed in Switzerland. So, even though it’s a “limited”, which is a public company, it’s not a listed company. I know them well, I know their business. I was hoping that they would have a broader solution.

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