* July-December underlying profit rises 5 pct to A$381 mln
* Power demand from new LNG plants to make up for car plant
* Sees FY2014 profit around same level as FY2013
* Sees strong growth from 2015 onward as LNG exports start
MELBOURNE, Feb 20 Origin Energy Ltd,
Australia's biggest energy retailer, expects little impact on
power demand from a string of closures of car plants and an
aluminium smelter, as new gas liquefaction plants would take up
Only if newer, larger aluminium smelters were shut would
there be a big hit to power demand, Chief Executive Grant King
said at a news conference on Thursday after the company reported
a 5 percent rise in first-half underlying profit.
U.S. aluminium giant Alcoa Inc announced this week it
was going to close its Point Henry smelter and two rolling mills
in August, following plans by car makers Toyota Motor Corp
, General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co to
close their Australian plants by 2017.
King said liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in the state of
Queensland, due to launch operations within the next two years,
would easily make up that lost power demand.
"That demand growth from LNG probably exceeds the impact in
the market of the general things that are happening in
manufacturing," King told reporters.
While aluminium smelters are huge consumers of electricity,
he said the closure of Point Henry would not have much impact on
power demand as it was small compared with Rio Tinto Ltd's
Tomago smelter and Alcoa's Portland smelter, which
"At the moment it doesn't seem to us that those larger, more
modern plants are at threat, nor is it a surprise that some of
the smaller, older plants have been shut down," King said.
Origin is poised for strong growth starting next year, when
it will start selling gas to its rivals who are due to begin
exporting from their LNG plants in Queensland, ahead of Origin's
neighbouring Australia Pacific LNG project.
However for the year to June 2014, Origin said it expected
results to be roughly in line with 2013 after it reported
underlying profit of A$381 million for the six months ended
December up from A$362 million a year earlier.
That compared with an average of three analysts' forecasts
at A$387.2 million, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine.
Origin said heavy competition in power retailing was
continuing to hurt margins, but that it expected its energy
markets division to post a better result in the six months to
June than in the first half.
Analysts expect the group's full-year profit will rise 3
percent to A$782 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Origin also said its biggest project, the A$24.7 billion
Australia Pacific LNG project, remains on track to start
exporting in mid-2015, within budget.
The company's shares have gained 21 percent over the past
year, heavily outperforming the broader market, but fell
3.2 percent to A$14.375 on Thursday after the earnings release
against a 0.1 percent fall in the benchmark.