Electricity firms to reduce tariffs

TWO regional electricity companies, Northern Electric and Seeboard, yesterday announced cuts in household electricity bills in the new year along with strong rises in profits and dividends.

Northern Electric, reporting a 52 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 39.5m and a 13.5 per cent interim dividend increase to 6.3p, said it would be cutting tariffs by an average of 2.7 per cent from 1 January, including a 3 per cent cut in charges to domestic customers.

The tariff cut reverses a 3 per cent rise in Northern's charges to domestic customers introduced in April. David Morris, chairman, said the new tariff was intended to be 'sustainable'.

Seeboard, which serves the south-east of the country, unveiled a 50 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 9.2m and a 14 per cent dividend increase to 5.7p along with plans to bring in unspecified cuts in bills next year.

Sir Keith Stuart, chairman, said that any reductions, which would come on top of a pounds 10-a-household rebate this year, would depend on the current talks over new contracts with National Power and PowerGen.

Most of the profits improvement at the Tyneside-based electricity company came from its wholesale supply activities. The usual seasonal summer loss was reduced sharply to pounds 3.3m from pounds 15.9m in the comparable half- year, when Northern was hit by system uplift charges levied by the power generators.

Unit sales were flat as the recession finally caught up with Northern's previously robust customer base. Sales to domestic and commercial customers rose by 1.5 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively, but this was offset by a 2.6 per cent decline in its industrial market.

Despite flat volume and a lower charge to its sister supply business for use of the distribution network, Northern's distribution activities managed a modest rise in profits to pounds 43.6m, helped by previous cuts in operating costs. A further 200 jobs went in the first half.

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