Drax, the power generator, is to pay out £326m to shareholders in a special dividend after its first-half earnings soared more than 20 times on the back of high electricity prices.
Gordon Horsfield, the chairman, who owns 1pc of Drax, will receive £3.3m under the special dividend of 80p a share which is part of the company's policy of paying out most of its excess cash flow - part of the restructuring which left Drax in the hands of creditors after it was crippled by a slump in electricity prices in 2003. The payout was at the top end of the 75p to 80p range indicated by Drax in June and comes on top of an interim dividend of 4p a share. Both dividends are to be paid on October 25. - Telegraph
Road safety campaigners accused the Government of 'gambling with people's lives' yesterday after a scheme allowing motorists to drive on the hard shoulder of a motorway was launched. Traffic is using the safety lane on the M42 near Birmingham to help ease congestion during peak times or when an accident is blocking the main carriageways. But both the road safety charity Brake and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said they were worried about access for emergency services and the safety of motorists whose cars have broken down. Based on similar schemes in Europe, the pilot applies to an 11-mile stretch covering interchanges to the M6, M40, the National Exhibition Centre and Birmingham airport. If successful, it may be tested elsewhere. - Telegraph
Europe's dominant energy groups face new legislation to break them up and enable smaller competitors to enter the market, Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European commission, warned yesterday. In a move that will provoke uproar in some countries, Mr Barroso threatened to force big 'vertically integrated' groups to hand over their power transmission networks and gas pipelines to new owners to try to spur competition. However, he accepts that a handful of pan-European groups, such as E.ON and RWE of Germany, EDF and Suez-GDF of France and Enel of Italy, will emerge from the current round of consolidation and must be allowed to compete across borders. - Guardian
A scheme that directs motorists on to the hard shoulder on one of Britain's busiest motorways was hailed a success after its first day yesterday. Operators can open the hard shoulder between junctions 3A and 7 of the M42 in the West Midlands to improve traffic flow. Graham Bowskill, the regional director for traffic operations at the Highways Agency, said: 'We see that when the information goes on the gantry boards asking people to use the hard shoulder then they move across and it allows them to go up to the next junction with less congestion. It is a real success.' Drivers in difficulty will be able to pull into new lay-bys. The scheme is promoted as being an alternative to widening motorways. - Times
There could be light at the end of the tunnel for businesses and consumers labouring under mounting energy bills. Wholesale gas and electricity prices are still higher than they were this time last year, but over the past few months they have been falling. By next year consumers could be feeling the benefit in lower bills. - Financial Times
Two astronauts on Tuesday hooked up the newest part of the International Space Station. The two astronauts - Joseph Tanner, a former U.S. Navy pilot and a veteran of three previous space flights and five spacewalks, and Heidemaire Stefanyshyn-Piper, a navy commander in her first space flight - ventured out into space and scrambled over the orbiting construction project. They returned to the space station's Quest airlock a little more than 6 and one-half hours later. - International Herald Tribune