SSE’s outgoing boss defends firm’s margins

Suzie Neuwirth
THE OUTGOING chief executive of SSE yesterday defended the energy firm’s profit growth amid criticism that the benefit would not be passed on to consumers.

Ian Marchant, who steps down at the end of next month, told City A.M. that the company’s retail operations were only a small part of the overall business and that its margins “stand scrutiny compared to other retailers”.

The FTSE 100 firm posted a 5.6 per cent increase in annual pre-tax group profits to £1.4bn, and a full-year dividend up 5.1 per cent to 84.2p per share. Operating profits for its retail arm grew to £410.1m, compared to £321.6m last year.

Politicians and consumer groups have condemned the company for increasing gas prices last winter despite profiting from increased usage over an unusually cold season.

SSE warned in yesterday’s announcement that there could be bill increases of more than £80 per dual fuel customer to come.

“We get criticised for politicians for making too much profit and we get criticised by shareholders for not making enough, so we can’t win,” said Marchant.

Marchant said this year’s results were actually below the company’s long-term growth trend.

The energy firm, one of the big six, was slapped with a £10.5m fine by the regulator Ofgem last month for “prolonged and extensive mis-selling” to UK customers.