Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 13:20 UK

No promise of price cut from SSE

Gas flame
Scottish and Southern pledge not to raise prices for 18 months

Energy company Scottish and Southern has said it hopes not raise prices in the next 18 months but says it cannot make any fresh promises on price cuts.

The Perth based group reported annual profits of £1.25bn, that is an increase of 2% on the same period last year.

At the same time it said it had gained 600,000 new customers and had raised its dividend by 9%.

Chairman Lord Smith said SSE had now achieved 10 successive years of increasing profits and dividend.

Lord Smith of Kelvin said: "2008/09 was a tough year, dominated in the first half by very high wholesale prices for electricity and gas. Throughout, SSE managed its business in its usual no-frills way."

Scottish and Southern supplies energy as Southern Electric, SWALEC, Scottish Hydro Electric and Atlantic, and is Scotland's second largest company.

Bad debts

Scottish and Southern Energy has warned this year could see "significant challenges" in managing its customers' debts.

Chief Executive, Ian Marchant, told the BBC that although bad debts had so far not increased, short-term delays in bill payments were up with the recession.

With his company handling more than nine million customers in total, he said this is probably due to unemployment or fear of unemployment - though those customers are still likely to pay eventually.

Last year, SSE took over the Goldfish contact centre in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, that was threatened with closure by its former owners, Barclaycard, and the energy company chief said that had been important in handling the problem, as the staff are experienced with debt management.

The other key impact of the recession on the utility company is that the downturn in construction has hit its new connections of gas and electricity.

The company said that it had added 1,900 jobs across the UK over the past year, 1,000 of which had been created in Scotland.

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