Manweb employees flee Scottish takeover

Electricity: New owner sees staff exodus as bonus as it looks to expand on back of profits growth

MARY FAGAN

Industrial Correspondent

About 850 Manweb employees left the company in the run-up to the pounds 1.1bn takeover last month by Scottish Power. Ian Robinson, chief executive of the Scottish group, said he viewed the exodus, part of Manweb's "scorched earth" defence policy as a "surprise" and "bonus".

Mr Robinson said that about 30 more people had left Manweb in the few weeks since the Scottish group moved in but that he had no feeling yet for how many more might go. Scottish Power plans to wait until January before making a statement on the integration of the firm into the enlarged group, and on how the Manweb business will be moved forward.

Mr Robinson also said that Scottish Power would cut 350 jobs in its own core operations over the next 12 months as a result of reorganisation, in addition to 140 people who left in the first half of the year.

In the six months to 30 September, Scottish Power made a pre-tax profit of pounds 128m, up 3.9 per cent over the same period last year. Earnings per share rose by 3.8 per cent to 11.4p and the interim dividend increased by 13.6 per cent to 5.17p per share. The company confirmed earlier projections of a full-year dividend of 15.5p.

Scottish Power will continue its drive outside its core electricity operations in areas that include gas, retail and telecommunications. It plans to launch a full public telephone service in Scotland next year, undercutting BT prices for domestic customers by up to 15 per cent. Scottish Power already has 80 business customers for its fledgling communications arm and has invested pounds 35m in a fibre-optic network in the region. Mr Robinson is aiming for a 15 per cent share of the Scottish market in eight or nine years.

The retail operation doubled its profit to pounds 4m in the first half on turnover up by 29 per cent. Mr Robinson said the group continued to look for retail expansion opportunities north and south of the border and envisaged adding up to 40 stores over the next five years to its national network of 159.

Scottish Power is pursuing the gas retailing business, with 6,000 customer sites in England, Scotland and Wales. It plans to offer domestic gas supplies in Scotland when the market is fully opened in 1998, but will not take part in next year's pilot in the south-west of England.

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