(Updates with coal producers’ profits in eighth paragraph.)
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Huaneng Power International Inc. led Chinese power producers higher in Hong Kong trading after China increased electricity prices for the first time in six months and capped the cost of coal.
The unit of China’s largest power producer rose as much as 4.8 percent and traded at HK$4.04 as of 10:14 a.m. local time, up 2.3 percent. Datang International Power Generation Co. gained 1.2 percent to HK$2.60 and Huadian Power International Co. advanced 0.7 percent to HK$1.42. The benchmark Hang Seng Index climbed 5.3 percent.
China raised prices charged by coal-fired power plants to distributors, known as on-grid tariffs, by 0.026 yuan (0.41 cent) per kilowatt-hour effective today, and capped the cost of coal in the spot market at 800 yuan a ton, below current prices. Huaneng and Datang posted declines in third-quarter profit while Huadian reported a loss, following increases in fuel prices.
“The on-grid tariff hike of 0.026 yuan per kilowatt-hour, or 6.8 percent, is slightly higher than our assumption of 5 percent, and the effective date is one month ahead of our assumption of Jan. 1,” Citigroup analysts Pierre Lau, Charles Wang and Cathy Chan wrote in a report. “The on-grid tariff hike is essential.”
The government also raised retail power prices by an average 0.03 yuan per kilowatt-hour. Inflation slowed the most in almost three years in October, giving China room to increase tariffs. The government last raised power prices June 1.
China will also limit price gains for thermal-coal supply contracts next year to less than 5 percent, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, said yesterday. The government froze this year’s contract prices at 2010 levels to tame inflation.
China Shenhua Energy Co., the nation’s biggest coal producer, gained 5.5 percent to HK$34.45, while China Coal Energy Co., a unit of the second-largest producer of the fuel, climbed 6.1 percent to HK$9.28. Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. increased 7.5 percent to HK$18.66.
“Raising the contract price will provide major coal producers an immediate boost in terms of guaranteed profit margins,” said Helen Lau, a Hong Kong-based analyst at UOB-Kay Hian Ltd. “The overall optimistic sentiment in the market today certainly also helps the performance of coal stocks.”
Shenhua sold 45 percent of its coal under contracts in the first nine months, and with a 5 percent increase in prices, profit may increase an additional 3.5 percent for 2012 on top of estimates, Lau said. China Coal, which sold 56 percent of its coal under contracts, may get an extra 8.3 percent boost to its net income, she said.
The government capped contract prices at 570 yuan a ton this year, according to Lau.
Benchmark spot prices at Qinhuangdao, the nation’s largest coal port, rose to 860 yuan a ton Oct. 23, the highest since 2008.
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