SSE warns of tough trading

City A.M. Reporter
SCOTTISH & Southern Energy (SSE) yesterday said the demand environment remained tough and it would delay building a power plant in Wales, as it met expectations with a three per cent rise in full-year profit.

Chief executive Ian Marchant declined to give precise guidance for the company’s financial year, which ends March 2011. “We don’t see the next 12 months being much different from the past 24 to be honest,” he told reporters. “Underlying demand has stopped falling for industrial customers but for domestic customers it's still coming down because of the energy efficiency effect, not because of the economy.”

As a result of the lower demand, SSE said it planned to start operating the Abernedd gas-fired power station in South Wales, two years later than planned. Abernedd is not the first UK power plant to be put off because of weak electricity demand – partly caused by lower industrial demand because of the economic downturn but also because of more efficient domestic energy use.

Marchant also said SSE was still involved in the bidding process for EDF’s UK power networks and, as had been expected, due diligence was revealing a number of operational challenges at the business, such as deteriorating network reliability.

The utility, which supplies gas and electricity to 9.35m UK customers, said its pre-tax profit rose to £1.29bn for the year to the end of March, matching the consensus figure from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.