Electricity set for new payout row

Fresh political controversy about the redistribution of cash to shareholders by the privatised regional electricity companies looks set to be stirred up again this week, writes John Shepherd.

There are strong rumours in the City that East Midlands Electricity is planning to pay pounds 186m of special dividends to 250,000 investors.

A spokeswoman for the company declined to dismiss the rumours. 'We do not comment on market speculation,' she said.

If East Midlands does make the payment, there is sure to be a political attack by the Labour Party, which last week called for the regional electricity companies' windfall profits to be handed over to energy charities.

Gordon Brown, shadow chancellor, has made it clear that Labour would tax excess profits from the privatised utilities if it won the next election.