Turnover up at Lancashire's water firm, but coronavirus uncertainty looms ahead

Water firm United Utilities saw revenue up but pretax profits fall in the year leading up to the coronavirus crisis.

By Tim Gavell
Friday, 22nd May 2020, 3:25 pm

The firm which supplies water and handles waste water across Lancashire said that it had a good year but warned it was having to plan for uncertainty lies ahead as the effects of coronavirus hit the economy.

Reported profit before tax was £303.2m for the 12 months leading up to March 31, compared to £436.2m the previous year.

The firm's revenue for the year came in at £1,859.3m up from £1,818.5m in 2019.

United Utilities saw its revenue rise in the 12 months to March 31

It said that it had £56m of costs associated with COVID-19 but for the future had around £1.2bn of available liquidity to cope wiht the fall-out from the virus' impact on the economy.

It said it was recommending a final dividend of dividend of 28.4p bringing the total up to 42.6p per share for the year. this was up from 41.28p in 2019.

The firm has closed its recreational car parks at its sites which are popular with the public but kept pathways open for local walking and exercise.

It said that where customers have found it difficult to pay their bills it has increased the extensive financial assistance available. No staff have been furloughed and all members of the board volunteered to a 20 per cent cut in pay for three months, with the value paid towards local charities.

It said it was continuing to work to improve sewers and supplies and to cut leaks.

Steve Mogford, chief executive officer, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for our country. At United Utilities, we have focused relentlessly on supporting customers and colleagues through these difficult times.

"We have increased the number of customers eligible for reduced tariffs. We have also made £3.5 million available immediately to those most in need, with £71m committed to help customers over the next five years.

"“We can reflect on our performance improvements across the last five year price review period with pride. We have shared £350 million of our outperformance through additional investment, providing better service to customers and enhancing the environment.

"The economic implications of COVID-19 will provide a challenging backdrop to the AMP7 regulatory period.

"United Utilities will continue to prioritise the implementation of its delivery plans, albeit reviewing and adapting these plans as necessary, and we fully intend to play our part in the recovery of the North West economy. It is, however, too early to predict the full impact of COVID-19 on inflation, the economy more generally."