Scottish Power fears soothed

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The Independent Online

Philip Bowman, the new chief executive of Scottish Power, has already tried to reassure workers that he has not been brought in to sell the group.

But Mr Bowman, who was the chief executive of drinks giant Allied Domecq until it was sold to Pernod Ricard last year, stopped short of promising that Scottish Power would not be sold under his watch.

German utility giant E.ON made three takeover offers for the Scottish company last year, all of which were rejected.

Analysts and bankers have speculated that the appointment of Mr Bowman makes it more likely the board will accept the next bid it receives. He has admitted he knows little about the utility sector. He is seen by some, after his succesful oversight of the sale of Allied Domecq, as a safe pair of hands to do the same for Scottish Power.

Under Takeover Panel rules, E.ON is not allowed to make another bid until May, unless it is invited to do so by the company or a rival bidder emerges. Analysts expect that E.ON, which was proposing a cash offer for the £10.5bn- rated Scottish Power, will try again at some stage.

In a conference call with staff on Thursday, Mr Bowman was asked if the company would be sold. "I have come to Scottish Power to grow the business," he said. "Six and a half of the seven years I was at Allied Domecq I spent growing the business. That is my philosophy."

He is expected to bring in new blood to the boardroom. When US subsidiary Pacificorp is sold to US investor Warren Buffett later this year, the company will only have two executive directors, including Mr Bowman.

He replaces Ian Russell, who was the architect of the £3.8bn acquisition of Pacificorp in 1998. Despite problems with US regulators and lower-than-expected profits, Mr Russell had insisted that the utility remained core to Scottish Power's strategy and that other similar acquisitions would follow.

In May, he announced it was being sold, undermining his strategy and his position.

But the swiftness of his sacking surprised the City, with most analysts expecting he would step down later this year.