Benefits flow as water company leads the way in sector

Thirlmere reservoir in the Lake District

North West water and wastewater group United Utilities (UU) saw revenues and profits increase in the year to March 31, it reported today.

The Warrington-based group achieved a turnover of £1.818bn, up from £1.735bn the previous year, while pre-tax profits of £436m, showed a £4m improvement on 2018.

A total dividend for the year has been recommended at 41.28p per share, up from 39.73p.

On a group performance level, UU said it had delivered a 10% real reduction in average household bills since 2010, alongside improving customer service, provided the sector’s most innovative assistance schemes supporting more than 100,000 customers struggling to pay, and achieved its best ever customer satisfaction scores, anticipating a reward of around £16m for the current five-year regulatory period.

UU also said it had been awarded the highest grades for the sector in watchdog Ofwat’s initial assessment of company business plans for the next five-year regulatory period, starting in 2020.

The group revealed it has met its leakage target for 13 consecutive years, while also accruing a pension surplus of £484m by the year end, eliminating its pension funding deficit in April.

Chief executive Steve Mogford said: “Always operating in the best interests of customers is at the very heart of our operations and this is reflected in our best ever customer satisfaction scores.

“We have taken the lead in transforming how the sector supports customers, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, and have delivered more for customers whilst reducing bills by 10% in real terms since 2010.

“We are achieving leading and sustainable results across many areas of operational performance, benefiting from the investment that we accelerated into the early years of the current regulatory period and from our deeply embedded innovation culture that is considered to be the best in the sector.

“Our Systems Thinking approach has underpinned a strong performance on our outcome delivery incentives against a backdrop of increasingly challenging targets and maintaining resilient services to customers during the extreme periods of weather in 2018.”

He added: “Ofwat’s fast-track assessment of our 2020-2025 business plan – that achieved the highest grades for the sector – reflects the quality of our future plans and the performance improvements we have already delivered.

“We are increasing our additional investment by another £100m, to total £350m, to accelerate the delivery of further performance improvements and facilitate a flying start to the next regulatory period.

“We are well placed for the remainder of the current regulatory period and beyond as we maintain our focus on providing great service to customers and creating long-term value for all of our stakeholders.”