SSE defends its dividend ahead of bill increase

 
Suzie Neuwirth
SSE YESTERDAY posted a rise in profits and defended its decision to hike its dividend, mere days before an 8.2 per cent increase to customers’ bills will take effect.

The FTSE 100 energy firm reported pre-tax profits of £336.4m for the six months to 30 September, a sharp increase from losses of £40.9m the previous year.

SSE is raising its interim dividend by 3.2 per cent. “Shareholders in SSE ...are continuing to support massive investment in the energy infrastructure of the UK, and regular dividends are what they get in return for this investment,” said Sally Fairbairn, director of investor relations.

While SSE’s networks and wholesale arms made profits, the energy supply unit – which provides gas and electricity to households and businesses - recorded an operating loss of £115.4m, compared to a profit of £48.3m last year. SSE blamed the losses on higher wholesale gas prices, alongside increases to distribution, environmental and social costs.

The government’s green levies have been blamed by the companies as a key driver for raising bills, with a report from the National Audit Office yesterday predicting that government green levies will send bills soaring above inflation until 2030.

Chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said yesterday that SSE’s price increase could fall by half to around four per cent if the levies were moved into general taxation.

Shares closed down 0.43 per cent.