Scottish & Southern Energy said yesterday it had benefited from competitive pricing and investment of almost £1.28billion last year, which helped it to a net gain of 600,000 customers in the year to March 31.
Perth-headquartered SSE, the UK’s second-largest energy provider, pledged to be the last, or one of the last, to raise tariffs during last year’s energy price bubble — and it saw its customer numbers soar to 9.05million at the year end.
The group cut average electricity prices by 9% and gas prices by 4% at the end of March.
And it said yesterday that, if conditions in the wholesale energy markets remain as they are, it hopes to keep bills at the same level for as long as possible.
SSE said it was aiming for another “moderate” increase in profits in the current year, despite tough economic conditions.
But it warned over the impact of the credit squeeze on customer debt levels.
It has already seen a £2million rise to £72million in debt overdue by more than six months at the end of March.
“Leading indicators, such as the number of payment reminders being issued to customers, suggest that 2009-10 will pose significant debt management challenges,” SSE said.
Almost 58% of SSE’s customers pay by direct debit or standing order, but a further 10% pay through pay-as-you-go repayment meters, with the remainder on credit terms, paying by cheque and other methods.
The company yesterday reported pre-tax profits before exceptional items of £1.25billion, up from £1.23billion the year before.
Revenues for the year were £25.4billion, against £15.25billion previously.
Also yesterday, SSE said it would be interested in buying French rival EDF’s £3billion UK power grid if it came on the market, although it might be six to nine months before it was clear whether EDF would sell.
Meanwhile, Spanish utility Iberdrola, the owner of ScottishPower, has expressed an interest in buying land in Kent and Lancashire from EDF to build nuclear power stations.
Iberdrola has formed a consortium with SSE and France’s GDF Suez to look into the idea.