United Utilities grows revenue and increases dividend for the year but operating profit takes a hit

 
Caitlin Morrison
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Water - Photo Illustrations
The water company is in the middle of a huge spending programme (Source: Getty)

United Utilities avoided the impact of new regulated price controls to grow its revenue during the year to 31 March, benefiting from higher-than-expected usage.

The figures

Revenue was up to £1.73bn from £1.72bn in the year to March 2015.

Operating profit dropped to £567.9m from £653.3m, which the company put down to the new price controls - imposed by regulator Ofwat - as well as an increase in spending on infrastructure renewal.

The company increased the total dividend for the year to 38.45p per share, compared with 37.7p per share last year.

United Utilities also said it had accelerated its investment plan, with £799m invested over 2015/2016 - the group is aiming to spend around £3.5bn between 2015 and 2020.

Why it's interesting

Unitied Utilities issued a disappointing set of numbers at the half year point, blaming Ofwat's price controls for a drop in revenue and profit. In the full year however, the company says it has avoided feeling too much pain from the watchdog's new rules, and said its progress during the first 12 months of the new regulatory regime gives it confidence in the group's ability to deliver on targets.

And David Cheetham, Market Analyst at XTB.com said that despite a nine per cent drop in profit, when taken in consideration with an increase in the dividend payment "the overall picture becomes more favourable".

"Arguably dividends are of even greater significance for investors in utilities than other sectors, and the decision to raise them despite the slump in profits will likely placate any shareholders that are less than satisfied with the drop in the water company's bottom line," said Cheetham.

What United Utilities said

Steve Mogford, chief executive, said:

Our progress over this first year of the new regulatory period shows we are well placed to deliver further value for customers, shareholders and the environment, underpinned by a robust capital structure and good credit ratings.

In short

United Utilities is keen to prove itself in the new regulatory environment, and has no problem splashing the cash in order to do so.

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