ScottishPower targets US in £2bn investment spree

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The Independent Online

Plans to invest £2bn in its UK and American energy businesses over the next two years were unveiled by ScottishPower, yesterday.

The electricity and gas group also said that it would target "smaller" acquisitions and did not rule out making a bid for one of National Grid Transco's regional distribution businesses, which are due to go on sale next month with a price tag of £1bn each.

The bulk of the capital expenditure will be in the US, where ScottishPower owns the West Coast utility PacifiCorp. The company made a start yesterday by announcing a $350m (£208m) investment in a 525 megawatt gas-fired station in Utah. About half the £1bn a year of investment will be in new capacity in generation, transmission and distribution and the remainder will be used to renew existing assets.

Ian Russell, ScottishPower's chief executive, said about 70 per cent of the investment would be in the US and 30 per cent in the UK, where the company is also keen to add more generating capacity. It is already the UK's biggest onshore windfarm developer with 140 megawatts of capacity in operation or under construction and a further 600 megawatts in the pipeline.

One project is a 100 megawatt, £250m windfarm at Whitelee, near Glasgow. But development has been stalled by objections from BAA, the airport operator. David Nish, ScottishPower finance director, said that it may have to fund a £4m upgrade to radar at Glasgow airport to clear the way.

ScottishPower announced a 17 per cent rise in underlying pre-tax profits for the first half of the year to £393m, with the help of a further £32m in cost cuts and increased customer numbers. Reported pre-tax profits, including goodwill write-downs, rose 23 per cent to £327m.

PacifiCorp made an operating profit of £254m in the six month period - up £48m on last year and keeping it on course to achieve the target of $1bn in profits by 2004-05.