Reshuffle in pipeline for Sweb board

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Southern Electric Internati- onal yesterday imposed full board room control on South West Electricity by announcing widespread management changes, including a new chief executive and chairman.

The move came as a water watchdog called for Norweb's purchase of North West Water to be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and PowerGen raised its stake in Midlands Electricity.

As expected, John Seed and Maurice Warren are stepping down as chief executive and non-executive chairman of Sweb. Like other executive directors, Mr Seed was on a two-year rolling contract. Along with his annual salary of pounds 177,000 and sale of shares he is expected to walk away with around pounds 750,000.

Mr Warren was due to retire from his pounds 100,000-a-year chairmanship next August and will be paid up to that date.

Gale Klappa, the new chief executive, said he was negotiating with Mr Seed on retaining him as a consultant. John Sellers, Sweb's finance director, and John Bonner, commercial director, have resigned, but would remain with the company until the end of the year. Mike Harreld is the new finance director.

Malcolm Carson, operations director, who is on medical leave, has resigned as a director, but would remain with the company for the time being.

Also yesterday, the Ofwat National Customer Council, set up by the water regulator to protect the interests of consumers, said the proposed acquisition of Norweb by North West Water should go to the MMC.

Jim Gardner, council chairman, said he was not opposed in principle to the merger. But he said it was unacceptable that customers would not receive benefits from the proposed merger until the price review.

"Why should customers wait five years when shareholders will benefit immediately? Efficiency savings should be shared between shareholders and customers at the same rate," Mr Gardner said.