The Business On... Tony Wray, Chief Executive, Severn Trent
Wednesday 24 November 2010
Taking the lead among the Water Boys?
Yes, Severn Trent are the first water company to report results and all those tears they shed when the regulator was reviewing prices have been dried. Mr Wray is feeling chipper and the company has raised its dividend to investors by rather more than the city had been expecting.
Aren't water companies dull, though?
Well, that's the way they're supposed to be, but Mr Wray took control at the company after an, ahem, difficult period. Severn Trent was anything but dull for all the wrong reasons: it got fined a record £40m for misreporting leakage data by to Ofwat. The fine made it the first utility to be convicted of a criminal fraud.
Quite. But the tough-talking Mr Wray has spent just over two years sorting the company out and the City appears pleased with the results, at least if you look at the way the shares have performed.
So he'll be seeking a higher profile then?
Got that right. He memorably said in one interview that he wanted to be an industry leader and if that meant his kids using his picture in Utility Week as a dartboard, well that was alright with him.
And what does he want to see as an industry leader?
Deregulation and consolidation, with Severn Trent in the driving seat, taking over smaller rivals. He thinks this is the way to pull off a difficult double act: improving returns to investors while improving the service supplied to Severn Trent's customers. All that and providing investment for dealing with issues like leakage.
Can he pull it off?
Well he's certainly got Severn Trent into a happier place than it was and he doesn't want for experience of utilities. It's where he's spent most of his career and he keeps his hand as non-executive director at Energy and Utility Skills. He's sat on the boards of several (non water) utilities and he's only 48, so he's got time on his side.
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