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United Utilities beats weather to hit target

United Utilities has praised the “extraordinary efforts” of staff who battled extreme weather to ensure the company met its annual leakage target.

Between Christmas and New Year, United received 40,000 calls reporting burst pipes − 10 times the usual level − in a “unprecedented” period for the firm.

Regulator Ofwat has the power to fine firms that fail to meet leakage targets − with potential penalties up to 10% of their turnover − but United Utilities said it met its 2010/11 benchmark of 464M.l a day.

Today’s annual results from United also highlighted the impact of Ofwat’s recent five-year price review, which resulted in a 4% reduction in United’s prices in real terms during the last financial year.

Revenues from United’s regulated operated fell 4% as a result to £1.48bn in the year to March 31, while operating profits dipped 17% to £580M.

The cost of infrastructure renewals and property rates also impacted on the figure.

Despite the “tough” Ofwat settlement, the Warrington-based group has claimed it is well positioned for the five-year regulatory period after embarking on a cost-cutting drive and winning union backing for changes to its pension scheme which reduce the deficit and also future funding costs.

Chief executive Steve Mogford, who took the helm in March, said the company had made good progress in the early part of the five-year regulatory period.

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