The company yesterday announced a 15.3 per cent increase in its dividend to pounds 149.1m for the year to 31 March. Pre-tax profits climbed 8.7 per cent to pounds 579.5m on a historical cost basis on turnover up by 2.4 per cent to pounds 1.43bn.
The results fuelled speculation that the company could be floated on the stock market early next year. It is thought to be worth more than pounds 4bn and the regional companies have appointed Kleinwort Benson to advise on the potential for a sale.
David Jefferies, chairman, said: 'The company has got to the stage where it would benefit from a wider share ownership.' However, it is thought that the regional companies, which own between 5.4 and 12.5 per cent of the NGC's holding company, have yet to agree on how much should be divested or on the timing of any sale.
The bulk of the NGC's profits come from charges for electricity transmission, which since last year have been capped to inflation minus three percentage points. The cap runs for three more years.
Mr Jefferies said that the NGC's telephone subsidiary, Energis, had abandoned its search for a partner. Energis, expected to begin service this year, is building a fibre optic network linking principal towns and is regarded as a long-distance rival to BT and Mercury.