RWE prepares to fire Npower chief executive Paul Massara


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The Independent Online

Paul Massara, the chief executive of Npower, is reportedly on the verge of being ousted by the Big Six energy company’s German owners.

Npower is owned by Germany’s RWE and reports in the German press and elsewhere said that Mr Massara, who has led the UK firm since January 2013, is set to be moved aside in favour of the firm’s new chief operating officer, Paul Coffey.

In a statement Npower, which has around 5.1 million UK gas and electricity customers, said it would not comment on “speculation” but added: “We are currently reviewing the details of a plan to improve Npower’s performance and will communicate more details about that plan in due course”.

Last week RWE reported a 60 per cent half year slump Npower’s profits to €53m (£38m), blaming problems with the firm’s billing system. It added that these were unlikely to be solved until the end of 2016. It also revealed that 300,000 Npower customers had switched to rivals over the last year.

When Mr Massara took the helm at Npower he pledged to make it the top-ranked energy firm for customer service by 2015. But according to the rankings compiled by Which? magazine Npower remains at the bottom of the customer satisfaction league.

As well as problems at its UK division RWE has been hammered by low wholesale power prices and its high exposure to coal and gas and weak presence in renewable power generation. The group’s first half profits fell 11 per cent to €2.03bn. Shares are currently trading at their lowest level in 24 years. They closed down a further 0.2 per cent at €15.265.

Last month the energy regulator Ofgem ordered Npower to deliver free energy to customers until it had implemented the rulings of the Ombudsman relating to complaints made about the firm. Npower had failed to implement the rulings within the required 28 days.

Separately, the Competition and Market’s Authority last month proposed a “transitional cap” on the most expensive energy tariffs charged by the Big Six firms while measures to inject more competition into the market took effect.

Last week Mr Massara objected to the idea. “We believe that it will harm customer engagement and reduce competition, in short regulating 70 per cent of the market would be a retrograde step for one of the most liberalised markets in Europe,” he said.

Mr Massara was also loudly critical of the proposed energy price freeze proposed by the previous Labour leader Ed Miliband, claiming that it was “freezing” investment in Britain’s energy market.

In January 2014 he said: “It is a great headline to say ‘We want to freeze energy prices’. But what is going to happen afterwards? Ed Miliband cannot control the commodity markets, which set 60 per cent of the price.”