“Either we find a way to combine the fight against the economic effects of the pandemic and the fight against climate change, or our efforts will be futile,” José Manuel Entrecanales, ACCIONA’s Chairman and CEO, said today during the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). Shareholders attended the AGM through digital channels because of the pandemic. In his speech, ACCIONA's Chairman called for public-private cooperation to overcome the dual crisis: “The scale of resources is such that government action alone will not be sufficient without the determined involvement of business, particularly ‘driver companies’ such as ACCIONA.”
José Manuel Entrecanales thanked the company's employees for their efforts to help ACCIONA overcome the challenges arising from the pandemic, as well as for their initiatives to support affected communities in various countries. “It is an honor to be part of this group of exceptional people, not only for their technical capabilities but also, above all, for their human values,” he said.
In his address, ACCIONA's Chairman listed the measures taken to strengthen the company in the face of the crisis. These include raising liquidity by more than €1 billion to over €4.3 billion through credit lines and commercial paper; obtaining an investment grade rating from DBRS; implementing a significant cost-cutting program; earmarking mature assets for sale; and reducing the dividend announced before the pandemic by 50%.
On the possible scenarios for economic recovery after COVID-19, José Manuel Entrecanales expressed confidence in the company's ability to cope with the situation thanks to its "liquidity, a resilient profit and loss account, and a unique strategic positioning”.
“I see the glass as half full and, judging by our share's performance, the market apparently shares that view,” he added.
In his view, the pandemic was unleashed on a world "that was beginning to understand the need to lay the foundations for the transition to a clean and decarbonized economic model.”
In that context, he said: "Spain now faces a historic opportunity to move decisively towards renewable energy, energy efficiency, electrification of transport, micro-mobility and new storage technologies and hybridization as the core axes of a fair ecological transition.”
ACCIONA's Chairman said the private sector had a key role to play in this change of economic paradigm, creating for that purpose “an environment of stability and confidence that promotes the necessary investment effort. To achieve this, I believe it is essential that we rise above ideologies and personal positions, ease the climate of political and social tension, and send as many messages of unity and consensus as we can.”
The framework for action, he added, is well defined by the EU's Next Generation recovery plan, proposed just yesterday by the European Commission. The plan is based on the so-called European Green Deal, the roadmap that aims to give the Union a decarbonised economy. In addition, ACCIONA's Chairman welcomed the recent publication of the EU’s "sustainable taxonomy", which catalogues economic activities according to their contribution to reducing emissions.
“This year our auditors certified that 93% of ACCIONA's capital expenditure and 83% of its EBITDA are aligned with the European taxonomy, which defines a new economic universe to which Europe considers investments should be directed as a priority,” he added.
In his speech to shareholders, ACCIONA's Chairman reviewed the main milestones for 2019 by geographical area.
Regarding Australia, he highlighted the strong activity in the development of wind farms, with the recent announcement of the construction of a 1,000MW park in the state of Queensland, and the inauguration of the Sydney Light Rail. In the Asia-Pacific region, the Water business achieved record contract figures during the period, with recent awards in Hong Kong, Vietnam and the Philippines.
In the Middle East, where the impacts of global warming are severe, in 2019 ACCIONA closed the contract for three macro-desalination plants, with the capacity to provide water to the equivalent of three million people, consolidating the company's world leadership in large desalination plants.
In Chile, the company has reinforced its position as the main producer of 100% renewable energy, with important corporate offtake agreements including Google and the Falabella department store chain. In the United States, the company acquired an important portfolio of more than 3,000MW clean energy projects for development. In Mexico, ACCIONA completed the construction of the Puerto Libertad photovoltaic complex (404MW).
The Chairman saw important investment prospects opening up in Spain as a result of the new legal and regulatory framework. He highlighted ACCIONA's contribution to the development of sustainable urban mobility through shared electric motorbikes in the country's main cities and in European capitals such as Milan and Lisbon.
“ACCIONA is in excellent form in terms of dynamism, maturity and international presence and, after several years of international expansion, we have a presence in the regions of the world where we want to be, participating widely in some of the most outstanding investment programmes and projects in our industry,” he added.
José Manuel Entrecanales also highlighted the company's tax contribution during the year in the countries where it operates. ACCIONA paid more than €1 billion in taxes in 2019, more than five times the dividend distributed in the same year. "I find it hard to understand the point of view of those who criticize or question the contribution of companies, large or small, to the development of our economy, to the well-being of our society and to the progress of those countries in which we work, especially Spain," he said.
ACCIONA’s AGM approved the re-election of Christiana Figueres and Jerónimo Gerard, as independent external directors, in addition to ratifying the management report, the sustainability report and the accounts for the year. It also approved the reduction in the dividend for distribution to shareholders charged to fiscal year 2019, which was set at €1.925 per share.