Digital and data drive earnings at Origin Energy

Product and service innovations boost customer numbers, but gains overwhelmed by impairments.

While recording a half year statutory loss of $1.68 billion, Origin Energy said a “digital first” strategy was helping to boost its customer numbers in a competitive retail environment.

The loss was chiefly driven by impairment to the company’s asset investments in LNG, which overwhelmed the underlying performance of the business where EBITDA increased 32 per cent to $1.15bn. This reflected “solid operational performance”, the company said in its 1H17 presentation to analysts this morning.

The increasing earnings of the Energy Markets area of the business were highlighted by Origin CEO Frank Calabria, which were thanks in part he said to “product and service innovation”.

The company pointed to recent innovations – including its predictable plan and solar-as-a-service offerings – as a driver for 17,000 new customer accounts and a stable churn rate which was well below the rising market average.

A significant capital expenditure over the period involved costs around the replacement of its business customer billing system, the company added.

“Significant growth in digital capability has enabled an uplift in delivery of key projects and an improved speed-to-market,” the presentation noted.

Online sales increased by 21 per cent from the same period in 2016, while eBilling accounts increased by 55 per cent.

The innovation effort would be sustained through the year and beyond as part of the company’s strategy “to provide market leading customer experience and service”, the results document read.

“The development of Origin’s digital and innovation capabilities will ensure Origin can provide this level of customer experience at an efficient cost,” the company noted.

Last year, James Moor, group manager market risk at Origin described how the vertically integrated energy company – which operates in primary extraction through to power generation and retail – had embedded data analytics into a number of its projects, including the predictable plan offering.

Looking forward, the company said that continued development of products and services will be a priority, while innovation would help reduce operating costs across natural gas and electricity.

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