United Utilities Group PLC is a public limited company with its shares listed on the London Stock Exchange. We currently have over 100,000 shareholders, collectively holding over 680 million shares.
Around three quarters of these shares are held by institutional investors – such as pension funds - with private investors holding the balance. Approximately half of our institutional investors are UK based.
Our financial performance is reported annually in our financial accounts.
Our board has a responsibility for engaging with shareholders, and both executive and non-executive directors are available to meet with major shareholders. The board receives regular updates and feedback on our investor relations activities from sector analysts.
Over 59 per cent of our retail shareholders (60,000 individuals) have registered addresses in the North West of England. We have historically always held our AGM in Manchester (2014 was no exception), which enables our more local shareholders to attend the meeting. These shareholders are, of course, also our customers.
We are always keen to hear the views of our shareholders and investors and have an active investor relations programme.
Our CEO and CFO met with around 100 major shareholders in 2013/14. They also made presentations to groups of institutional investors, both on an ad hoc basis, and to support half and full year results announcements.
Our investor relations team, meanwhile, continued with its busy all year round programme of investor meetings, spanning the UK, Europe, North America and Asia/Pacific region.
In total, we met or offered to meet with 43 per cent by value of the overall shareholder base, which represents 79 per cent of the targetable institutional shareholder base (when adjusting for shareholders who do not typically meet with companies, such as indexed funds).
In these meetings, frequent areas of common interest included operational and environmental performance; customer service; capital investment; efficiency initiatives and regulatory outperformance.
Investors are always keen to observe financial stability, and are interested in the level of gearing versus regulatory assumptions; cost of finance; debt portfolio and maturity profile; future financing requirements and dividends. The price review process and submission of our regulatory business plan is a key area of interest for them.
Relations with other providers of capital
Running a water and wastewater business requires a long-term outlook. Our regulatory cycle is based on five-year periods, and we raise associated funding to improve our network for each period. We are, as a group, heavily reliant on successfully acquiring long-term funding from banks and debt capital markets to fund these network improvements.
This requires a long-term commitment and involvement from our credit investors who lend us the funds, with the company paying them a return for doing so. The European Investment Bank (EIB), which is the financing arm of the European Union, is our single biggest lender, currently providing circa £1.5 billion of term funding used to support our capital investment programme. This funding goes towards projects such as the new sludge processing centre at our Davyhulme wastewater treatment works. Jonathan Taylor vice-president of the European Investment Bank, officially opened the centre earlier in the year.
Given the importance of debt funding to our group, we have an active credit investor programme coordinated by our group treasury team, who provide a first point of contact for credit investors' queries.
We target an A3 credit rating with Moody’s which enables us to borrow money at more favourable rates.
If you would like to send us a comment about this report, please email our Head of Sustainability, Chris Matthews