When public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan unexpectedly told the audience at Eskom's financial results briefing last week that he would reveal a solution to the power utility's R480bn debt problem within a couple of months, Eskom CEO André de Ruyter was quick to reassure the market this wouldn't involve a "haircut" that would reduce the value of their bonds. Instead, he pivoted to the prospect that as Eskom debt matures, it could replace it with cheaper, longer maturity "green finance", with estimates that up to R200bn of such finance might be available. Eskom has long said it needs to more than halve its debt in order to be sustainable. Its financials showed again it is not making enough money to cover the interest and repayments on its debt and survives only thanks to government handouts totalling almost R140bn over a three-year period.

The idea its legacy coal debt could be replaced with cheap green finance is appealing in many ways. It came out of a proposal from Esko...

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