Outlook: Poor old Mr Hawker is on a Hyder to nothing

IT NEVER rains in the Welsh valleys but, boyo, does it pour. Hyder, the unfortunate owner of Welsh Water and Swalec, has declined in value by two-thirds over the past year, underperforming even the soggiest of industry sectors as our graphic shows. Now the dividend is being axed along with another 1,000 jobs and the electricity business put up for sale, leaving the group's ill-fated multi-utility strategy in tatters and the chief executive's job on the line.

But is Graham Hawker chastened? Not a bit of it. In fact, it is water off a duck's back Extraordinarily for someone who has presided over such a heroic destruction of shareholder value, Mr Hawker remains rather pleased with himself.

Only in the narrowest of senses, has his strategy been vindicated, in that Hyder has met all its cost reduction targets. But it has been like pushing water up hill. While Mr Hawker and his chums in Cardiff have been slapping themselves on the back over the manpower reductions achieved by forcing water and electricity to mix, no-one has noticed the ship sinking under its sea of debt.

Now that they belated have spotted the leaks in the balance sheet, it is all hands to the pump. Not only is Hyder looking at a bumper rights issue to keep its head above water, but everything and anything is up for sale in a desperate bid to lighten the load. True to form, Mr Hawker looks upon this as decisive management action. Others look agog at how Hyder overstretched itself in the first place, paying pounds 821m for Swalec in 1996 and doubling its exposure to regulatory risk into the bargain.

Mr Hawker reckons no-one could reasonably have foreseen the clobbering the utility sector would take, first from the windfall tax and then a series of swingeing regulatory price reviews. Perhaps they never read the opinion polls in south Wales showing Labour ahead by a country mile and Gordon Brown preparing to pounce with his well-trailed levy.

Hyder has had to contend with Ofwat and Ofgem and the Environment Agency. There is a certain irony now in the fact that it could be the Welsh Assembly which delivers the coup de grace by imposing an even bigger environmental clean-up programme on Welsh Water than Mr Byatt proposes.

Blase beyond belief, Mr Hawker, shrugs all this off and says he detects no shareholder pressure to resign. He is, he says, fond of gardening but not ready to take it up permanently. But horticulturally speaking his strategy is six feet under which is also where the chief executive surely ought to be.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
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

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas