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Actis Uganda Unit Sees 16% Jump in Power Customers This Year

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May 30 (Bloomberg) -- Umeme Ltd., the Ugandan power distributor owned by Actis LLP, may increase its customer base by 15 percent this year because of growing demand and increased supply, Managing Director Charles Chapman said.

The company may connect 80,000 new customers this year to add to the existing 520,000, Chapman said yesterday in an interview in the capital, Kampala. The growth of industrial users and increased demand by residential consumers have helped expand the company’s market, he said.

Uganda, East Africa’s third-biggest economy, has an installed capacity of 810 megawatts, while peak demand is estimated at 509.4 megawatts, according to the Electricity Regulatory Authority. Industrial consumers including the domestic units of Coca-Cola Co., the world’s biggest beverage company, Lafarge Cement SA of France and the government use at least 70 percent of the East African nation’s power, Chapman said.

“Our focus is on prepaid meters, to build two substations and connect 80,000 new customers this year,” said Chapman. “We have good hydropower supply because of high levels of water.”

The company may invest $40 million to $70 million in its expansion this year, depending on the level of tariffs it is guaranteed by government, he said, without providing details.

Umeme forecasts power demand in Uganda will grow 20 percent a year for the next five years, while generating capacity is expanding 15 percent a year and may slow to 10 percent by 2015, Chapman said in October.

It plans to invest more than $350 million in the seven years to 2019, Sam Zimbe, the utility’s general manager for corporate affairs, said on July 20. The investment may more than double to $800 million if existing and new customers are linked to a prepaid-metering system by 2019, he said.

Umeme won a 20-year concession to manage the nation’s power distribution network from 2005. The company’s shares have surged 24 percent since debuting on the Uganda Securities Exchange on Nov. 30. The stock closed unchanged at 340 shillings yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fred Ojambo in Kampala at fojambo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net

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