Yorkshire power boss receives 20% pay rise as profits surge

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The Independent Online

Industrial Correspondent

Malcolm Chetwind, chief executive of Yorkshire Electricity, saw his total pay increase by 20.5 per cent to pounds 316,900 last year including pounds 38,000 in provisions for a new long-term share incentive scheme.

The company said that discretionary bonuses and the share option scheme had been scrapped, and that the share scheme benefit would be paid only if peformance criteria were met over four years.

The pay rise emerged as Yorkshire announced a 29.6 per cent surge in dividends per share to 30.42p for the year to March, in addition to a special 90p payout announced at the interim stage.

The company said that the rise obscured a share consolidation and that the true dividend increase, excluding the 90p one-off, was 15 per cent.

Yorkshire's pre-tax profits rose 45.6 per cent during the year to pounds 217m and earnings per share jumped 53.5 per cent to 79.11p. The company was helped by a sharp reduction in costs. Almost 600 jobs were cut during the year and a further 400 are expected to go.

The results include a charge of pounds 8.7m for rationalisation and pounds 17m in compensation from Stockholm Energi relating to a project in Sweden.

Yorkshire also charged pounds 17.8m for its share of the appliance retailing chain, Homepower, which has been sold.

The company, which gave customers a pounds 10 rebate during the year, said that it would continue to share efficiency gains with shareholders and customers. The extent of these, it added, would depend on the results of the current review of electricity distribution prices by the regulator, Offer.

Chris Hampson, chairman, said the company's philosophy was probably not very different from others which had announced special payouts for shareholders and customers in recent weeks.

But he said: "We think it is more sensible to wait and see what the regulator decides. You could argue that if you volunteer something he might decide that you obviously could do more."

Mr Hampson also said that the company continued to monitor the stake held by Swiss Bank Corporation as a market-maker, which is now about 5.5 per cent but was at one time 8.7 per cent. He said: "It's a big punt as a market-maker but that's their story and they are sticking to it." Swiss Bank has held the stake for several months.