Information failure leaves Hydro’s subsidiary in the dark

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Manitoba Hydro International staff know the future of the company which contributes millions of dollars to Manitoba Hydro’s bottom line.

In an internal memo leaked by Manitoba Hydro’s international consulting division last week, staff learned of this for Sept. 2 to Oct. 2. 7 period, “MHI should not aggressively pursue new work. This means that he should not actively seek offers or seek new customers. ”

The memo goes on to say that all potential new work would require senior management approval and that any new work must have an end date of December 31, 2021 or before.

The reason for the imposed slowdown is not clear.

Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said the province did not order Manitoba Hydro International to curtail operations and there are no plans to sell or shut down Manitoba’s international consulting division Hydro. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

MHI senior management addressed questions to Manitoba Hydro.

Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said MHI was included in a recent strategic review of utility operations conducted by a third party.

“It’s part of Manitoba Hydro’s long-term strategic planning process,” he said. “The report is currently under review by Manitoba Hydro. As part of this process, MHI’s business lines have been moved to a non-aggressive approach to new business development to allow the review to continue uncomplicated. No decision has been made.

MHI cooling off period ends one day before a scheduled Hydro board meeting on October 8

An MHI staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity said there had been growing uncertainty for some time about the future of the organization and that last week’s note was the first official statement. that the staff had received on the current situation.

“It has all been absolutely insane,” said the staff member. “They didn’t give us any information. Are they looking to dissolve the business? This is what we want to know. “

“It’s part of Manitoba Hydro’s long-term strategic planning process. The report is currently under review by Manitoba Hydro. As part of this process, MHI’s business lines have been moved to a non-aggressive approach to new business development to allow for further review. without complications. No decision has been made. ” – Bruce Owen, spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro

MHI has been in business for approximately 30 years. In addition to providing consulting services on every element of the electricity sector in more than 120 countries, it is also the parent company of Manitoba Hydro Telecom (MHT). It also has technologies, including licensed tools for detecting transmission line failures and planning tools for dealing with power outages, among other services.

A veteran of the electrical consulting industry in Manitoba who is familiar with the business of MHI said the company enjoys an excellent reputation in the international market.

“The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service will tell you about the great work it has done around the world and the strength of demand for its services,” said the industry veteran.

He said that in the past, other provincial Crown utilities across the country operated international consulting divisions and that MHI was one of the last.

“The precedent for ending these things exists in other provinces,” he said. “One of the main reasons is that they are not considered a core business and it might be a nuisance to run a $ 50 million business, versus $ 2.5 billion for the utility. . ”

MHI’s internal memo was released as the company sought third-party administration of its Manitoba Hydro Telecom division. Submissions to a public request for proposals are expected to close in October.

Another leaked memo, apparently from MHI’s Senior Managing Director, Wesley Mueller, said: “(Manitoba Hydro) has a review process of strategic and operational models underway and MHI is being assessed for its suitability. strategic.

He went on to say that due to the telecommunications request for proposals, the “non-aggressive approach” to new business from the rest of MHI’s business for the next moment is to provide the possibility that the telecommunications issue “may be concluded without other complication ”.

Over the past two years, MHI generated revenues of $ 109.1 million and contributed $ 15.8 million to Hydro’s bottom line.

It has around 125 employees, most of whom are highly qualified electrical, software and computer engineers.

Tuesday the Free press reported that earlier this year, the provincial government discouraged Manitoba Hydro Telecom from bidding on a lucrative data network contract.

It’s unclear how exactly this relates to the wider MHI recoil.

Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said on Tuesday the province had not ordered MHI to curtail its activities.

“I can tell you that I have never issued a directive on this subject,” he said.

Wharton said there are no plans to sell or scale down Manitoba Hydro International.

“There is no discussion on this at the moment,” he said.

NDP Hydro critic, MP Adrien Sala, said “there are very real indications” that Prime Minister Brian Pallister is preparing to “privatize what is a valuable asset (MHI) that is currently making money for Manitobans ”.

Reacting to Wharton’s claim that he had not ordered Hydro to restrict MHI’s business relationship in any way, Sala wondered if the minister was even at the top of his portfolio.

“It looks like we have a minister of the crown, responsible for Hydro, who doesn’t seem to be aware of these directives (to) the organization he oversees… from the highest levels of government,” Sala said.

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Martin Cash
Journalist
Martin Cash has written a column and economic news for the Free Press since 1989. During these years he wrote a number of economic cycles and the rise and fall (and increase) of the fortunes of many local businesses. .
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Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislative journalist
Larry Kusch wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a college student speak with praise. from the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Read the full biography

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