Outlook: EdF and Sweb

WHETHER YOU live on the Isle of Dogs or the Isles of Scilly, it is impossible to escape the French these days. Electricite de France's purchase of the Sweb supply business yesterday adds Harold Wilson's favourite holiday spot to its ever-expanding portfolio. This already included two million households in the London area and now there are another 1.3 million homes in south-west England who will be warming their baguettes with French power.

Naturellement, EdF has overpaid for the business. The pounds 180 that it is shelling out to buy each Sweb customer compares with the pounds 150 a head that National Power spent buying Midlands Electricity's supply arm and even that deal was thought to be expensive.

But who's counting when EdF has the French state behind it and the French taxpayer picking up the tab?

British Energy, for one, perhaps. It was outmanoeuvred and outbid by EdF in the auction for London Electricity, with a little help from the European Commission. Now it has come second best in the bidding for Sweb and will probably have to console itself by taking the Swalec supply business off poor old Hyder.

Considering the wafer-thin margins in electricity supply and the dubious credit-rating of many customers (whom the Government politely refers to as the "fuel poor"), these businesses are going for ridiculous sums.

At least National Power and British Energy have the excuse that they are buying a ready made customer billing and marketing service as well as a list of customers. EdF has no such defence in the case of Sweb because it already had London Electricity under its belt.

But the French are on a mission and will only relent when they have captured a fifth of Britain's electricity supply and generation markets. The cross- Channel interconnector, which handily seems to flow in just one direction, has given EdF a head-start in generation. Its ability to outbid anyone, even a cash machine like British Energy, when it comes to buying supply businesses should do the rest.

This time there is more likelihood of the Sweb deal being referred back to the UK from Brussels. But given that the electricity supply market is now, in theory, a competitive one, there may be less scope for the energy regulator Callum McCarthy to wring concessions out of EdF. In a perfect world, EdF would hand back to customers some of the savings it will make when the axe falls on the Sweb workforce. If nothing else, it can certainly afford it.

Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Quantitative Risk Manager

Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments