Midlands Electricity climbs

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The Independent Online
MIDLANDS Electricity reported a 29.5 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 142.1m. The increase marks the latest in a series of robust announcements by electricity firms and prompted a sharp attack on pricing by consumer bodies.

A final dividend of 11.6p has been declared giving a total of 17.25p, a 14.2 per cent rise over last year's pro forma payout. The dividend is covered 2.8 times. Bryan Townsend, chairman and chief executive, said he was confident that earnings and dividend growth would be maintained.

Earnings per share rose to 49p from 35.7p in 1990/91. Turnover rose by 9.4 per cent to pounds 1.45bn in spite of the relatively warm weather and a fall in industrial unit sales. An operating profit of pounds 135.9m ( pounds 103.5m) was struck after charging pounds 36m, mainly for restructuring and job losses.

But the Midlands Region Electricity Consumers Committee criticised the profits in a time of recession and high unemployment. Laurence Olphin, committee chairman, said that Midlands should have frozen prices last year, instead of raising them 10.9 per cent. He said that the chairmen of all 14 regional consumer committees have appealed to the industry regulator, Offer, to take a tougher line on price control.

Midlands said that the profit included pounds 14.1m recovered from the previous year when the formula controlling its prices was based on a wrong inflation forecast. Without that, underlying profit growth was 4.4 per cent. It revealed that it is still entitled to recover pounds 37m on its supply business but is unlikely to recoup the full amount as this would mean higher prices.

Midlands kept its price increase to 1 per cent on 1 April 1992 to avoid the wrath of Offer ahead of a forthcoming review of the regulatory regime. Richard Young, the managing director, said: 'We will maintain the regulatory high ground and that means not allowing our rate of return to go through the roof.'