Recession hits business water usage

Tap waterUnited Utilities has said price increases had helped offset the impact of falling water consumption among recession-hit businesses.

The FTSE 100 company warned that commercial volumes continued to be hit by a large rise in unemployment in the North West of England in the last two years.
But United, which covers seven million people in the North West, posted a 4% increase in revenue to £822.9 million in the half year to September 30 as prices rose 5.8%.

The Cheshire-based group said underling pre-tax profit was up 3% to £190 million in the period as it invested £354 million in its network.

The company, which revamped its customer services last year after it received more complaints than any of its rivals in 2010/2011, said complaints had fallen a further 12% in the half year. It had no "escalated" complaints for the first time, it added.

Chief executive Steve Mogford said: "We are continuing to invest in our network for the benefit of our customers, the environment and the local economy."

He said that since 2010 the business had invested more than £1.6 billion.

The group said reservoir levels were ahead of typical levels for this time of year and it is also on track to meet its leakage target for the seventh consecutive year.

United Utilities also said it expects to invest £750 million in its network which includes more than 42,000km of water pipes from Cumbria to Cheshire and over 72,000km of sewers, by the end of the financial year. The group said it will increase its dividend by 7.2% to 11.44p for period, which saw shares rise 2%.

Angelos Anastasiou, utilities research analyst at Seymour Pierce, said that overall it was a "good performance, with no surprises".
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