United Utilities hails improvement project but sees 62% fall in interim pre-tax profits

Louise Beardmore

United Utilities, the Warrington-based water and wastewater company for the North West, said it is pressing ahead with £13.7bn of improvement plans, in its interim results announcement for the six months to September 30, 2023.

The industry is under intense scrutiny over its failure to provide adequate measures to eradicate sewage overflows in rivers and coastal areas. It has pledged to embark on a period of improvements, which many argue should have been a priority following privatisation in 1989 by then PM Margaret Thatcher.

United Utilities said improvements are at the forefront of its business plan.

It reported a 6.8% increase in revenues of £982m for the reporting period – largely reflecting the inflation increase allowed as part of the group’s revenue cap – but a 62.5% decrease in pre-tax profits, of £160m.

However, it will increase its interim dividend payout to shareholders by 9.45 to 16.59p per share, in line with group policy.

Chief executive, Louise Beardmore, described the figures as “robust”, saying: “We are announcing a robust set of underlying financial and operational results today, in what has been a busy six months, including submission of our ambitious business plan for 2025-30.

“We continue to focus on delivering for our customers, communities and the environment – and creating a stronger, greener and healthier North West.

“We are providing affordability support to over 350,000 customers – more than ever before – and we are on track to achieve our best ever year on customer outcome delivery incentives.

“We are doing more to protect and enhance the North West’s waterways and natural habitats and we’re on course to attain the highest 4-star rating from the Environment Agency for 2023.”

She added: “Last month, we set out an ambitious £13.7bn plan for 2025-30, a plan that will transform the delivery of services for customers and the environment in the North West and at the same time supporting 30,000 jobs, 7,000 of which will be new.

“Our strong balance sheet and liquidity puts us in a great position to deliver it, and we aren’t waiting – we have made an early start on overflows, representing £1.2bn of our proposed programme, and allowing us to press ahead with work to reduce storm overflow spills and deliver the step change we all want to see.”

Looking ahead, the group said revenue is expected to increase by around £150m in 2023/24, largely reflecting the November 2022 CPIH inflation of 9.4%, partially offset by a £20m net impact of over/under-recovery during 2022/23 and 2021/22.

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