Severn Trent’s Liv Garfield vows to keep 'lowest bills' after beating City expectations


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The Independent Online

Severn Trent’s new chief executive Liv Garfield has vowed to keep “the lowest bills in the land” as the FTSE 100 water utility beat City expectations with a 7 per cent rise in annual profit to £269.1 million.

Garfield, who joined Severn Trent eight weeks ago from BT, said Trent’s customers already paid £60 less than the industry average and that between now and 2020, the next regulatory period, she wanted “bills to be as affordable as possible, with the lowest bills in the land”.

Despite that, Trent, the UK’s second-largest water supplier, still predicted another 5.6 per cent rise in next year’s dividend, after a 6 per cent rise this year.

A year ago the utility rejected a takeover bid worth up to £5 billion from LongRiver, a conglomerate led by Canada’s Borealis. Asked if more takeover activity could be on the horizon, Garfield hit back: “I’ve no crystal ball.”

She downplayed the risk of a summer hosepipe ban, saying: “We’ve had a lot of rain, our reservoirs are full and we’re not expecting any drought.”

Garfield added that she had “loved” her first two months in the job, including “meeting a good couple of thousand of employees, poring over a gazillion documents, and going around the UK and US.”

However, the new boss added: “With fresh eyes, there’s always  a couple of improvements to see  and make — we need to be more on pace, and to simplify decision-making.”

Garfield’s main job in the coming months will be to steer the water giant — which serves about 4.3 million customers, mostly in the North of England — through Ofwat’s five-year regulatory plan.

It is submitting tweaked plans for  the 2015 to 2020 period at the  end of next months, and Ofwat  will make a final decision in December.

Shares in Severn Trent today inched up 4p to 1937p.