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Energy firm SSE to feel the heat as soaring profits leave customers cold

SSE, the Big Six energy provider, is bracing itself for accusations of profiteering at the expense of its struggling customers as it prepares to announce a 30 per cent jump in profit at its division supplying gas and electricity to UK households.

The company, formerly known as Scottish & Southern Energy, will report on Wednesday that its retail division made a £416m profit in the year to March, according to City forecasts, as price rises pushed up its profit margin and the cold winter increased gas consumption.

SSE, which has 9.5m customers, raised prices for gas and electricity by 9 per cent in October. It also suffered a record £10.5m fine by regulator Ofgem last month, which attacked it for "failing" a million customers through ruthless mis-selling on people's doorsteps, on the phone or the high street.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, the price comparison website, said SSE's profits were likely to be even higher next year and urged the group to spare its customers from further price rises. "Next week's profit announcement will not fully capture any increased demand due to people keeping their heating on for longer this spring," she said.

She called on the group to follow British Gas in using the bumper profits it made over the winter to subsidise customers' energy bills over the course of the year. "If profits are up substantially we hope SSE will go one step further than British Gas and either announce an immediate price freeze or even a price cut to help out its customers," Ms Robinson said.

Elizabeth Ziga, of Fuel Poverty Action, said: "While SSE customers were skipping meals to keep the heating on, the company continued to rake in bumper profits."

Overall, SSE is expected to announce a group adjusted profit- before-tax of £1.4bn for the year, compared to £1.3bn the year earlier.

A spokesman said: "It is our expectation that we will make an average profit on energy supply of around 5 per cent. This is a reasonable level of profit and is around or below the profits made by providers of other essential products."

l Vodafone will be under pressure from shareholders this week to explain what will happen to its 45 per cent stake in the US operator Verizon Wireless as the mobile phone giant's revenues in southern Europe continue to be hit by the eurozone crisis. Vodafone's share price has climbed on speculation that Verizon, the 55 per cent owner of Verizon Wireless, could buy out its partner's stake for over $100bn (£66bn).