National Grid aims to cut 800 jobs

Click to follow
The Independent Online
NATIONAL Grid Company, which transmits electricity throughout the UK, plans to axe around 800 jobs in the next few years to cut costs by 30 per cent, writes Mary Fagan.

NGC, which is owned by the 12 regional electricity companies of England and Wales, cut its workforce last year by 10 per cent to 5,300.

It also intends to expand outside Britain, and has joined a group bidding for the electricity transmission system in Argentina. It will seek equity stakes and a management role in other foreign counterparts as they are privatised, and is also looking at projects in Malaysia and New Zealand.

NGC has swollen the ranks of electricity companies wishing to expand beyond their regulated core businesses in the UK. The drive has become more urgent for the grid company because Offer, the electricity watchdog, from April imposed harsher price controls on NGC's British business. The new regime limits increases in grid transmission charges to inflation minus 3 per cent, compared with RPI minus zero previously.

NGC is also expanding into telephone services and plans to invest pounds 100m in Energis, its telecommunications subsidiary, over the next year. The company is seeking a significant overseas partner for Energis, which could be offering services to 70 per cent of the British population by the end of next year.

David Jefferies, NGC's chairman, announced a 7 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 533m last year. Turnover rose by 5.4 per cent to pounds 1.4bn and the dividend increased by 10.5 per cent to pounds 129.3m. The dividend is shared between the regional electricity companies according to the size of their stake in NGC, which varies from 5.4 per cent to 12.5 per cent.

Mr Jefferies said that, in spite of the regulatory pressures, NGC intended to increase the dividend in real terms. There has been speculation that, in spite of the money paid in dividends by NGC to its shareholders, some of the regional companies would like to sell it. However a stock market listing, while likely at some stage, is thought to be some years away.