Closure of oldest coal-fired power plants moved forward to 2024

The date for the closure of the two oldest coal-fired electricity plants in the Netherlands has been moved up by six years to 2024, economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes has said, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Saturday. The remaining three coal-fired power plants must be shuttered or be converted to other fuels by the original date in 2030, Wiebes, who has climate in his portfolio, added. RWE, owner of two of the coal-fired plants, said it was taken completely by surprise at the move and is considering taking legal steps. Wiebes has acted quickly in forbidding the use of coal for electricity generation and backs the use of biomass as a fuel. The two oldest coal-fired plants are the Hemweg-8 in Amsterdam owed by Nuon and RWE’s Amercentrale in Geertruidenberg, Noord-Brabant province. Nuon said earlier it is prepared to close the Hemweg plant by 2024 if a good social plan for workers is in place.  More >

French strikes depress Air France-KLM Q1

Air France-KLM booked an operational loss of €118m in the first quarter of 2018 as a result of strikes at Air France which cost the combine €75m. The Franco-Dutch group lowered its full-year earnings projections despite strong demand for tickets, Air France-KLM said on Friday. First-quarter net losses widened to €269m from €143m in the year-earlier period. Low earnings are a tradition in the first three months of the year for airlines which book most revenue in the summer months. The past quarter was substantially poorer because of the ongoing strike action at Air France where staff are demanding fatter pay packages. On Friday 25% of Air France flghts were cancelled due to strike action. Deadline AF chief Jean-Marc Janaillac has said he will step down if a majority of staff do not vote to accept the company's latest pay offer. Results of the vote will be announced on Friday at 18.00. Air France-KLM carried 22 million passengers in the first quarter, a 5.2% increase over the 2017 period. Turnover edged up 1.8% to €5.806bn.  Costs rose by 2.1% largely due to currency fluctuations. KLM outperformed its partner, booking operating profit €32m higher at €60m. Air France posted operating losses of €178m.  More >

Sanoma’s Dutch operations beat Finnish

Finnish publisher Sanoma reported earnings from its Dutch operations outperformed those in its home market in the first three months of 2018. The group posted an overall loss of more than €5m in the first-quarter, compared to an adjusted loss of €4m in the year-earlier period, the Financieele Dagblad said on Friday. In the Netherlands, where Sanoma is publisher of of the news website as well as such periodicals as Donald Duck and Libelle, the group said cost controls helped increase profits to €15m from €14m in the first three months of 2018. Sanoma’s Dutch unit recently sold its comparative shopping website Kieskeurig as well as its stake in the Dutch SBS television broadcasters.  Earlier Sanoma sold such Dutch titles as Playboy, Nieuwe Revu and Panorama.   More >

Gerrit Zalm joins Moody’s non-exec board

Former finance minister and ABN Amro chief Gerrit Zalm has joined the board of directors of Moody’s credit rating agency, the Telegraaf  said on Friday. In his new role at Moody’s, Zalm will attend quarterly meetings of the credit institution in New York. Zalm was chief negotiator in the formation of the present coalition government. He was CEO of ABN Amro from 2009 through 2016. Before that he was finance minister and MP. Since the end of 2017, Zalm has been chairman of the advisory council for the statistics agency CBS. Moody’s said it appreciated Zalm’s leadership capabilities in both the financial and political worlds.   More >

Home building sector now back at 2008 peak

With 66,000 housing units now under construction, production in the home building sector has returned to its 2008 peak, according to a report published by ING on Friday. The financial services group expects this to continue but at a slightly lower level than in recent years as shortages of both material and staff affect production. There is also a shortage of building sites and planning capacity, ING noted. Building permits are difficult to obtain. And because of sharply higher demand for building materials, costs are escalating.  Many current projects were planned during periods when there was little pressure on costs of building materials. The cost of construction materials is now 7.5% higher and this could stretch to 10% because of the uncertainties in the trade, industry building costs data centre BDB is projecting. The construction industry’s order books are filled on average for 10 months. Margins are indeed not high, but remain at the same level, said ING economist Maurice van Sante. Only 7% of building firms expect to book lower profits in the current quarter than they did in the first three months of 2018. Some builders have managed to renegotiate contracts to absorb the increased costs, Van Sante said. ING said the low number of sector bankruptcies indicate higher purchasing costs have not affected earnings.  Meanwhile, labour productivity has increased by more than 20% in the period between 2014 and 2017.  More >

Royals celebrate King's Day in Groningen

King Willem-Alexander, queen Maxima, their three daughters and other members of the royal family celebrated King's Day with tens of thousands of people in Groningen on Friday. Royalty fans had begun lining the streets early in the morning to catch a glimpse of the king, queen and three princesses. They arrived in the northern city around 11am and will leave in the early afternoon. The king, who came to the throne five years ago today, turns 51 today. A new poll by Ipsos for broadcaster NOS givens him a 73% approval rating, and 25% say he does a better job than his mother Beatrix. The day's activities included a chat with Groningers whose homes were damaged  by earthquakes due to gas extraction in the province. ‘I think that the country really understands how we feel but that any sympathy stops at the Binnenhof,’ one victim told the king. When asked by the king if they felt they were now being heard most said they did. #Kingsday craziness in #Amsterdam. Party time!!#Koningsdag #Netherlands #oranje — Victor Lacken (@vlacken) April 27, 2018 Hard in het Spaans schreewen naar Maxima heeft effect gehad 😍#noskoningsdag — Willem* (@12be) April 27, 2018     More >

Ministry offices shut due to floor problem

Some 14 offices and meeting rooms in two ministry office blocks in The Hague have been closed off to staff because the floors are said to be potentially unsafe. The home affairs and the justice ministry complexes have both been affected by the scare, which has been caused by the incorrect use of pre-fabricated concrete slabs. Justice minister Sander Dekker told broadcaster NOS the floors had been found to be problematic several months ago. The two office complexes were both opened in 2013. The problem with the floors was first highlighted when a car park at Eindhoven airport collapsed last September and hundreds of other buildings are also potentially at risk, NOS said. For example, Erasmus University's Polak building was closed for several months because of doubts about the floor. It was reopened at the beginning of this month. Part of the Windesheim hbo college in Zwolle has also been closed while repair work is carried out.  More >

House prices rise fastest in 16 years

Prices for houses rose at the fastest rate in February since September 2001, the national statistics office CBS and land registry office have reported. The Dutch housing market plunged into a prolonged slump after the 2008 financial crisis and recovery started only in 2013.  Houses are now just as expensive as they were on the eve of the crisis in August 2008, the CBS said. Present-day prices are now about 25% higher than the all-time low in the market 4.5 years ago. The price increases come at a time when house sales are in decline. Only 32,129 houses changed hands in the first two months of this year, a 6% decrease over the 2016 period.   More >