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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?