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Nov. 25, 2020, 2:26 a.m. EST

United Utilities profit rises despite virus hit

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By Jaime Llinares Taboada

United Utilities Group PLC on Wednesday posted an improved profit for the first half of the year, as a reduction in finance costs offset a decline in operating performance.

The FTSE 100 water utility made a net profit of 162.0 million pounds ($216.5 million) for the six months ended Sept. 30, up from GBP158.6 million a year earlier.

However, underlying operating profit--one of the company's preferred metrics which strips out exceptional items--declined to GBP319.1 million, from GBP391.7 million a year earlier, as U.K. water companies entered a new regulatory cycle that reduces bills for customers and the coronavirus pandemic hurt business consumption.

Revenue fell to GBP894.4 million from GBP935.5 million, it said.

United Utilities proposed an interim dividend of 14.41 pence, up from 14.20 pence a year earlier.

"We now have a clearer understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on our business which remains robust and supported by a strong balance sheet. This, together with a stabilized inflation outlook supported by central bank policy and government actions, gives us the confidence to reaffirm our responsible AMP7 dividend policy of growth in line with CPIH inflation," Chief Executive Steve Mogford said.

Write to Jaime Llinares Taboada at jaime.llinares@wsj.com; @JaimeLlinaresT

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