Manweb turns up the power

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MANWEB increased pre-tax profits last year by 13.6 per cent to pounds 126.3m despite a pounds 103m investment in improving customer services.

The company, one of the least diversified of the regional electricity firms, recruited 80 more staff during the year in areas including meter reading and retailing.

John Roberts, chief executive, said performance was helped by a continued improvement in the economy and colder than normal weather.

The electrical contracting business made a small profit last year compared with a loss of pounds 1.1m the previous year and the retail business increased profit by 20 per cent to pounds 600,000 despite tough trading conditions.

Group turnover rose by 1.1 per cent to pounds 929.6m in the year to 31 March and earnings per share increased by 20.6 per cent to 83.6p. The dividend for the year is 24.35p, an increase of almost 16 per cent.

Mr Roberts said dividend cover was now 3.4 - slightly higher than last year - giving scope for future dividend increases despite an expected toughening of the regulatory regime.

Mr Roberts expects to hear soon the initial view of Offer on new price controls for electricity distribution. He said that if the final decision was too onerous it might consider aoproaching the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.