Manitoba Hydro says it plans to cut off part of its international trading consultancy after a review said the division was “less aligned” with key public enterprise operations.
The company announced the structuring of Manitoba Hydro International after a third-party review and months of media scrutiny overcoming the future.
Manitoba Hydro International is a wholly owned subsidiary of Manitoba Hydro and has numerous commercial sectors that do everything from advising on international energy projects to providing local data services through Manitoba Hydro Telecom. It employs about 130 people.
A news release from Crown corporationsays international consulting is a competitive industry dominated by large firms, whose sole focus is on that line of work.
Hydro president and CEO Jay Grewal said the business consulting leg operates in countries at political risk.
“The last thing we would ever like is to have an employee operating in one of these geopolitical jurisdictions at the highest risk and there is unrest and we need to get our employees to a safe place quickly,” she said in an interview.
There is financial uncertainty, with Hydro reporting declining returns on an annual basis, she said.
“It’s an industry we would compete against, this is their core business, this international consulting, versus a very small business within MHI,” Grewal said.
“It is not in line with where we are heading as the utility of the future.”
A recent MHI annual report says the company made over $ 50 million in revenue in 2018-19, which resulted in just under $ 6 million in total profits.
Grewal said the sale of MHI’s advisory arm, which operates under MHIUS, does not match Hydro’s interest. The value in the consulting business lies in its contracts, which Hydro will honor as the remaining bids of the deal, she said.
“It is not our main business to build an organization to then get private. We are a public entity owned by all of Manitobans.”
Personnel affected by the reorganization will be offered employment at Manitoba Hydro.
Manitoba Hydro International will continue to operate as a subsidiary of Manitoba Hydro but focus on its other commercial activities, including its telecom sector.
However, his telecommunications was told last year to suspend all activity related to the pursuit of new broadband services and that order remains in force, Grewal said.
Questions about the future of Manitoba Hydro Internationalfirst surfaced in September after internal documents revealed that the subsidiary was told to stop pursuing new work as it was “being evaluated for its strategic fit” within its parent company.
The MHI review was part of a broader examination of the entire Crown corporation. Grewal said Hydro will reveal more details about its 2040 Strategy long-term strategic plan in the coming weeks.
NDP skeptical of Hydro plans
The New Democratic Opposition Party argued that news about MHI would result in higher utility bills for Hidro customers, although it is unknown whether the reshuffle will affect electricity levels in any way.
“The real loser here is the Manitoba Hydro payer,” said Adrien Sala, NDP MLA for St. Louis. James and party critic Hydro, during a bad Tuesday.
Sala is asked if the reinstated staff can dive into the operations of the public enterprise.
“Even if someone is offered a permanent role, the potential to become redundant is very high,” he said. “These are individuals whose skills are highly specialized … and, frankly, their skills are not necessarily related to the essential functions of Manitoba Hydro.
“This is basically a giant gift from the private sector and it is privatization under another name.”
Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont disagrees with the NDP raising the privatization spectrum because technically Hydrois just closed its consultancy.
Lamont’s main concern is that the Pallister government has a report on MHT that he and other politicians have not yet seen, he said.
Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said he is pleased the review will strengthen Hydro’s focus around their core business: providing “cheap, affordable and reliable energy” to Manitobans.
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