United Utilities profit up to £492m on £1.86bn revenue

Warrington-based United Utilities, the UK’s largest listed water company, said on Friday its underlying profit before tax rose £32 million to £492 million and revenue climbed £41 million to £1.859 billion in the year to March 31, 2020.

On dividends, United Utilities said: “Reflecting performance in the year … the board has proposed a final dividend of 28.40 pence per ordinary share (taking the total dividend for 2019/20 to 42.60 pence), an increase of 3.2 per cent, in line with our policy of targeting an annual growth rate of at least RPI inflation through to 2020.”

But the firm said it would reassess its dividend policy for the five-year price review period ending 2025 amid the COVID-19 crisis.

United Utilities said its net debt including derivatives at March 31, 2020, was £7.361 billion, up from £7.067 billion a year earlier.

The company explained: “This increase largely reflects regulatory capital expenditure, payments of dividends, interest and tax, the inflationary uplift on index-linked debt, fair value movements and the impact of IFRS16 resulting in a non-cash increase in lease liabilities, partly offset by operating cash flows and a repayment of loans owed from joint ventures.”

United Utilities said it gross borrowings at March 31, 2020, had a carrying value of £8.363 billion.

The company’s share price was trading down about 4% at around 880p to give the firm a current stock market value of around £6.3 billion.

United Utilities CEO Steve Mogford 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 offer the sector’s widest range of assistance schemes to help those struggling to pay their bills and 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 £71 million 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.

“We have committed company funding to supporting customers in financial difficulty and to our pension schemes, achieving low dependency and mitigating risk for employees past and present, and we have delivered financial performance that supports the payment of the final dividend in August 2020, in line with our AMP6 commitment. 

“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 and on our business, and we will review our dividend policy for AMP7 as a clearer picture of the post COVID-19 economic environment emerges.”