BUSINESS LIVE: BT to spice up free money movement; EasyJet CEO to exit

The FTSE 100 will open at 8am. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are BT Group, EasyJet, United Utilities, Vistry and Premier Foods. Read the Thursday 16  May Business Live blog below.

> If you are using our app or a third-party site click here to read Business Live

United Utilities profits slump amid sewage dumping pressure

Under-fire water firm United Utilities has missed market expectations for annual profit, as higher consumer bills failed to offset a steep rise in costs as the group struggles to bolster its envrionmental reputation.

Expensive consumer bills, however, helped lift annual revenue by 8.1 per cent to £1.95billion.

The water supplier to North West England reported an adjusted operating profit of £517.8million for the year to the end of March, compared with analysts’ expectations of £522.2million.

United faced the ire of consumers, politicians and regulators on Tuesday after it emerged the group was responsible for for millions of litres of raw sewage illegally pumped into one of England’s most famous lakes.

It failed to stop the illegal pollution of Windermere, in the Lake District, for 10 hours in February and did not report the incident to the Environment Agency until 13 hours after it started, according to the BBC.

An almost identical incident occurred at the same location in 2022.

Anglo to sell coking coal arm for £4.75bn in bid to convince investors shake-up is working

Anglo American is eyeing the quick sale of its coking coal business as it seeks to convince investors its radical shake-up is working.

The London-listed mining giant, which has turned down two bids from BHP worth £31billion and £34billion, this week unveiled plans to break up the company to fend off takeover interest.

EasyJet CEO to exit

EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren will step down in early 2025, the budget airline said this morning, as it reported a bigger than expected first-half loss on Thursday ahead of a busy summer season.

Lundgren, who has helped to lead the airline out of its pandemic debt and has grown the holiday business, will be succeeded by finance chief Kenton Jarvis.

The company reported a headline pretax loss of £350million, higher than an expected loss of £340million but down from £392million a year earlier.

‘We are now absolutely focused on another record summer which is expected to deliver strong FY24 earnings growth and are on track to achieve our medium term targets,’ Lundgren said in a statement.

BT pledges to bolster free cash flow

The new chief executive of BT Group has set out a plan to more than double free cash flow over the next five years as the telecoms giant passes the peak of its investment in fibre networks.

Allison Kirkby, who previously led Sweden’s Telia, said BT would increase its dividend for the 2024 financial year by 3.9 per cent to 8p a share after free cash flow beat expectations.

Some analysts had expected free cash flow to suffer during the period as a result of bumper spending on BT’s full-fibre roll-out, potentially even forcing a dividend cut.

While BT surpassed expectations in this respect, broadband line losses to competitors were worse than expected at 491,000 in the year to 31 March – up from 210,000 the prior year.