SSE eyes return to growth despite losing customers

Power group SSE today insisted it was on track to see earnings return to growth this year, despite a fall in customer numbers.

SSE said its full-year earnings were set to rise despite a drop in customer numbers. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The Perth-based utility said annual adjusted earnings per share were expected to be “at least” 120p – up from the 119.5p it reported for the 12 months to the end of March, which marked a 3.7 per cent year-on-year decline.

However, earnings per share for the first six months are predicted to be at least 33p – well below the 45.9p it generated a year earlier. SSE said the fall was linked to an increase in bond interest payments.

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The group added: “SSE focuses on results for the financial year as a whole because results for six-month periods can be variable and subject to the impact of shorter-term issues, particularly in the wholesale and retail businesses.”

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At its retail arm, results are expected to be “negatively affected” by factors including rising non-energy costs and lower customer numbers. In July, SSE told shareholders that total electricity and gas customer accounts in Great Britain and Ireland had fallen to 8.16 million, down from 8.21 million at the end of March.

Finance director Gregor Alexander said today: “Our focus is on safe and efficient operations and investments across the SSE group and we are satisfied with what has been achieved in the first half of the financial year.

“Providing electricity and gas and related services is an important but complex task that requires the careful management of the wide range of issues that affect them. We are committed to managing these issues as effectively as possible, so that we continue delivering good services for our customers and fair returns for our shareholders and, in particular, annual dividend increases that are at least equal to retail prices index inflation.”

The group also said it was making progress on the possible sale of up to one-third of its 50 per cent stake in gas distribution company SGN. The remaining 50 per cent stake in SGN, which serves three-quarters of Scottish households, is jointly owned by Borealis Infrastructure Management and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

“Should a sale be completed, SSE would expect to use the proceeds to return value to shareholders or to invest to create value for shareholders,” the utility said.