Friday, 18 October 2013

Big Six UK utility companies

What are the 'Big Six' then? They are the six main companies we in the UK have very little (as in no) choice but to buy our gas and/or electricity from.

Managing director - Chris Weston.
Brutish Gas, sorry, I meant British Gas is a subsidiary of Centrica who's operating profits in the six months to June 2013 were £1.58 billion. In order to assuage this terrible lack of profit, they recently raised energy prices by 9.2%. You can see why their Managing Director looks so content.

Centrica also own Scottish Gas.

CEO Vincent De Rivaz
EDF, is wholly owned by the French state-owned EDF SA (Electricitie De France if you're at all interested and yes, there should be acute accents over the e's, but who knows how you do that?) EDF haven't as yet announced their price rises for this winter, last year's though were an eye watering 10.8% (assuming your eyes can water with the heating off.) 

In his spare time, Vincent De Rivaz enjoys photographing the frozen corpses of old age pensioners, (I'm joking, I have no idea if he does that. Please don't sue me like you tried to sue those environmental activists who climbed the chimneys of your power station at West Burton, not that I think you did it to scare off any future protests because as we know; EDF is a fair and responsible* energy supplier.)

I've blogged (irreverently) about EDF before, only click if you have time you don't mind not getting back.

* Daily Mail Online alert.

CEO Tony Cocker
E.on is a German owned power company who's UK arm was formerly known as Powergen. Apparently it used to be a vertically integrated Utility company, I've linked to the wiki page for an explanation about 'vertically integrated' things but lost interest before it finished loading.

E-on were famous earlier this year for a 14.7% jump in profits (to £273m) for the first half of 2013 after it raised prices in January 2013 by 8.7% for dual fuel punters. The profit alluded to above was made by their 'Supply Division', but their UK power generation and oil & gas business saw profits fall sharply, from £399m to £159m. I mean give them a break, they've got to make the short fall up some how right?

E-on haven't announced their price rise yet, charitably, they wait till we're right in the middle of the cold snap to do their robbing.

And no, I'm not saying anything about their CEO's last name.

CEO Paul Massara
RWE npower plc, trading as Npower, is a UK based German owned gas & electricity supply and generation company. Npower not only supply electricity they also make it - so to speak. While that isn't very interesting, it is important because if a company is set up just so, it can hide huge profits made in its supply division in the way it trades internally with its generation division.

For example, if your newsagent hiked the price of a Cola Bottle from 1p to 10p then told you - "sorry, its the supplier" - the shop's profit stays the same but the supplier's profit goes up substantially - what you don't see is he is his own supplier.

Last year, npower announced an increase in profits of some 34%, this in the same year they hiked prices for gas by 15.7% and for electricity by 7.2% (although the kind souls dropped the price of gas by 5% at a later date.)

Npower owns nine power stations across England.

CCO Scottish Power and CEO of Scottish Power Renewables, Keith Anderson
Scottish Power is another vertically integrated utility company, headquartered in Glasgow but owned by Spanish giant Iberdrola. Iberdrola employs 38,000 odd folk around the globe and enjoyed profits of €2.8 billion in 2012. Scottish Power is truly vertically integrated - it operates the distribution network for Merseyside & North Wales and is also the Transmission Owner for the south of Scotland - it also generates and sells electricity and gas to the UK. 

Remember the newsagent and the Cola Bottles? It would mean he owned the shop, the factory plus the haulage company used to deliver the Cola Bottles and the roads the lorries used. At each stage a profit margin is maintained - all of it compounded then added onto the final bill which eventually ends up with you.

A Cola Bottle, and its not even fucking fizzy,

Scottish Power's profits doubled from £350m to £712m  in 2012, in October of 2011 they hiked their energy prices by 7%. They also payed their Spanish parent company a dividend of some £890m, looking at Keith there, you begin to get ideas about where to put the vanes on that model turbine.

So far they haven't announced price rises for this year but it seems to be fashionable so brace yourself.

CEO Alistair Phillip-Davies. No, the image isn't mis-aligned, its just a long picture of APD
with a white cat in a snow storm to his right.

SSE plc formerly known as Scottish and Southern Energy plc head-quartered in Perth (Scotland, not Australia.) Other brands they own which you might recognise are Southern Electric and Scottish Hydro. With 9.6 million customers they are second only to British Gas who manage to rip off a staggering 20 million domestic and commercial customers.

SSE announced price rises of 8.2% from the 15th of November 2013 and enjoyed pre-tax profits to end of March 2013 of a lung-emptying £1.4 billion - yes, billion - and that was after it paid a record £10.5m OFGEM fine for misleading customers.

There is no white cat in that picture above, its just a middle income family shrouded by a blanket of snow.

But listen, lets not form any unfortunate views, Alistair Phillip-Davies does have a heart. As CEO of SSE he's given his staff energy discount - worth a hefty £144 - to charity. He said it just wasn't worth the bother of the 'pointless criticism'. He went on to say he 'wanted to make SSE as well-loved a brand as John Lewis'.

Aye, you're doing a fine job there right enough...

For an at-a-glance overview on the 'Big Six' click here. Hopefully, being able to put a face to those ripping you off so enthusiastically will offer some form of catharsis. Equally, when you turn on the news and hear of the first pensioners who so feared the thud of a utility bill on the hall carpet they died of exposure or hypothermia - you can look at the images above and wonder about their humanity.

For a not-very-good explanation about Futures Trading (which is why they try to convince us their prices must go up) click here, or not.

Up to you.


  1. It seems to me that, particularly in a relatively cold country with relatively long winters and unreliable summers, the means of keeping people warm should be a matter for the state to control.

    I'm not sure that an independent Scotland would be able to overturn the doings of the wicked cow Thatcher and renationalise these companies. It would cost a lot of money.

    But could we not set up a state owned company in competition with them, with no need for profit? Simply a matter of covering costs.

    As time goes on I feel a growing anger at and hatred for this Uk and all that it stands for. This indecent set of price rises has done nothing to reduce this anger and disgust.

  2. Aye.

    I'm not sure what having independence would do to solve this either. I am sure that without it, we can do absolutely nothing.

    Its is a situation which has been allowed to flourish under Westminster rule. But also, international financial markets have much to answer for. Futures Trading in fossil fuels (gas, coal and oil etc) basically means, prices will fluctuate. I'd remove oil & Gas from the futures market. In fact I'd probably scrap the entire futures trade, its just people making money out of making other people poorer. Lazy gits should go and actually produce something tangible.

    France have state owned EDF SA, from what I've read, effectively, via our higher bills with EDF UK - we're actually subsidising EDF SA so in turn subsidising French consumer's energy bills.

    Really, I just wanted folk to be able to put faces to these companies. When they and their representatives are on the telly trying to justify why prices go up but never down, they could give the most wily politician a run for their money.

  3. The state should purchase the majority or at least a large shareholding and that would be a way of dictating policy. You are never going to get fully state owned but obtaining enough shares to influence the policy. I am sure I read somewhere that the French Government do that and it's actually a good revenue raiser as we actually subsidise their power prices because they partly own previous taxpayer owned companies here. It's still all a disgrace though.


  4. That makes sense Bruce. If the state owned controlling interests in utility companies, that would be a decent compromise.

    If France do it with EDF then there mustn't be any EU rules which forbid it, unless the French are being naughty.

  5. Did we not used to have a Government owned situation previous to privitisation which was not much better?

  6. There are better companies out there that believe in value for money and treating the customer like a human being rather than a cash cow - they just take longer to find.

    I Love my Bills !

  7. I don't think the main problem is that they're privatized, its the futures markets in which they buy gas and oil etc.

    Not sure you can compare how things are now to how things were before, which if I'm being honest, I don't really remember.

    Nationalising something won't automatically make it better but what we have at the moment isn't great either.

    I think a mixture of both maybe? Governments owning substantial shares...

    I'm a typical blogger, long on opinion, short on answers.


  8. These Big Six companies have raised their prices so much making it completely unaffordable for people to pay the utility bills.

    Energy Brokers


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?