SSE hits back after its adjusted earnings rise

Marion Dakers
ENERGY giant SSE talked down its surging adjusted profits and increased dividend yesterday, pointing to volatility during the year.

Adjusted profit before tax, which strips out exceptional items, rose 38.3 per cent to £397.5m for the six months to September. But SSE made a statutory pre-tax loss of £26.8m, up from a £81.3m loss a year ago.

Chief executive Ian Marchant said: “In headlines that seems very encouraging, indeed almost too good. In fact in some respects it is too good because the half-year profits in our business swing around an awful lot more.”

Chairman Lord Smith of Kelvin also defended the profit and dividend policy, saying it enabled the firm “to employ people, pay tax, provide services that customers need, make investments that keep the lights on and create jobs”.

The FTSE 100-listed firm raised its interim dividend five per cent to 25.2p per share, in line with its pledge to increase shareholder payouts above the rate of inflation.

The firm’s retail division posted an adjusted operating profit of £75.7m, up from a loss of £101.4m a year ago. Marchant said this equates to 20p per customer account per week.

The firm last month raised its average customer bill by nine per cent, following four of the big six energy providers in hiking prices.

The wholesale division’s operating profits have fallen 44.5 per cent to £123.2m, which SSE blamed on falling wholesale prices, particularly in gas.

Alastair Phillips-Davies, deputy chief executive, said: “We remain confident that our activities in these markets are fair and legitimate.”