The business on...Ian Marchant, Chief executive, SSE

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The Independent Online

SSE?

Scottish and Southern Energy. It's one of the country's biggest energy companies.

So how's business?

They're doing very nicely thank you. Mr Marchant announced yesterday that SSE made a profit of £2.1bn last year, almost a third more than in 2009/10.

So can I turn the heating up?

Best not to. SSE may be making money hand over fist but Mr Marchant is still concerned he may have to raise prices later this year.

How can he justify that?

SSE is making all its money from generating power. It says big increases in the cost of gas and electricity on the wholesale markets have left it losing money on its household business.

Should we believe him?

Well, he's right about the wholesale market. But regulators accuse the big energy companies of being too quick to raise their prices in such circumstances and too slow to cut when wholesale markets fall. Ofgem is investigating them for exactly that right now.

Is Mr Marchant worried?

It's difficult to tell. SSE, like all the energy companies, rejects Ofgem's analysis. But Mr Marchant almost never gives interviews.

What's his background?

He's a high-flyer. SSE appointed him as its finance director in 1998 at the tender age of 37. Four years later, he got the top job – on appointment at SSE in 2002, he was the youngest chief executive in the FTSE 100.

And since then?

He's managed SSE astutely, steering clear of the big deals that have tempted rival energy providers. He's also sound on the issue of climate change – SSE still burns fossil fuels of course, but Mr Marchant has invested in renewables businesses and is also a campaigner for greater energy efficiency.

What else do we know?

Not a great deal, he's pretty private. He earned £1.2m last year and friends describe him as a rugby nut.

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