SSE to unveil bumper profit next month

SCOTTISH and Southern (SSE) is set to announce a near doubling of its interim profits next month, leading to speculation that it could mount a bid for assets owned by rival EDF. <br /><br />SSE, Britain&rsquo;s second largest energy group, is forecast to unveil pre-tax profits of around &pound;600m, up from &pound;302.6m, for the half year to the end of September, according to&nbsp; a poll of analysts. <br /><br />The energy firm issued a trading update last week saying profits would be &ldquo;significantly higher&rdquo; than last year&rsquo;s and said it expected to increase its dividend by at least four per cent above inflation. <br /><br />Analysts say that SSE could use the bumper earnings to help it buy EDF&rsquo;s distribution arm, which delivers electricity to London, the South East and East Anglia. The assets could fetch as much as &pound;4bn.<br /><br />EDF&rsquo;s parent, Electricit&eacute; de France, is looking to offload the business to help it build Britain&rsquo;s next generation of nuclear reactors. <br /><br />Last year, the firm &ndash; which counts the French state as its biggest shareholder &ndash; paid &pound;12.5bn for British Energy, which supplies around a sixth of the UK&rsquo;s energy through its nuclear reactors. <br /><br />It has since sold 20 per cent of British Energy at a steep discount to British Gas owner Centrica for &pound;2.3bn and there has been speculation that it was looking for a buyer for a further 20 per cent stake.<br /><br />But last week, EDF said it would instead sell its distribution business in a bid to free up cash, with SSE emerging as a clear favourite.<br /><br />Yesterday, SSE refused to comment on whether it was interested in the assets.