In the seat of power

Good Times, Bad Times: The Business Personalities Of The Year
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The Independent Online
Edmund Wallis, chairman of PowerGen, the electricity generator, would like a regional electricity company for Christmas.

The Government has already received its present from Wallis - an agreement last week to buy 1.1 million tons of coal from RJB, the UK's largest coal miner, delaying the likely closure of pits in an industry that the Government supported in opposition.

While PowerGen says its agreement to buy coal from RJB, which it previously said was too expensive, was purely a commercial decision, it came after Wallis and RJB's Richard Budge held talks with Geoffrey Robinson, the Paymaster-General, who reportedly wouldn't let them out until they had a deal.

The son of a coal-miner who was killed in a mining accident when he was only six, Wallis, 58, has spent more than 40 years in the power industry. He has not always been the miners' friend. It was he who was credited with keeping the lights on in the 1984-85 miners strike.

He has waged a vocal campaign to persuade the Government to let him buy a regional electricity company. Analysts say the wind may now be blowing his way. As competition opens up and regulators squeeze rates, the logic of economies of scale through greater integration will become more apparent, and provide the means to cut bills further. Next year he may get the present he wants.

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