Who owns the major energy and water suppliers, and how much profit do they make?

·8-min read
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) doubled profits after price increases  (PA)
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) doubled profits after price increases (PA)

SSE has reported a near-doubling of its annual profits compared to last year.

The Scottish company said its adjusted pre-tax profits catapulted to £2.18bn for the 12 months to the end of March, up from £1.16bn for the same time period the year before.

The climb in profits was announced today and the company said it had made “profits with a purpose”, which they are now planning on investing in renewable. The CEO said the group had invested a record £2.8bn in low-carbon electricity infrastructure, greater than its profits, which had helped to deliver a £6bn benefit to the UK’s GDP and supported nearly 40,000 UK jobs.

The surge in profits has come over the past year following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which caused the jump in global energy market prices. This in turn has ignited calls for a windfall tax on the excess profits made by firms.

SSE’s chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “Action, not just ambition, is what is needed to provide lasting solutions to the problems of climate change, energy affordability, and security — and, with a record-breaking investment programme, that is what we are delivering.”

And the firm isn’t alone in boasting profit records, with most energy and water companies also making billions.

Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Paul Nowak previously said oil and gas companies were treating the British public “like cash machines”. Most trade unions in the UK belong to the TUC.

“These eye-watering profits are an insult to working families as millions struggle with sky-high bills,” he said. “The Government has left billions on the table by refusing to impose a proper windfall tax on the likes of BP. And even now ministers are refusing to take action to fix our broken energy market and stop this obscene price gouging.”

So who owns the UK’s biggest energy firms, and how much profit are they making?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Who owns SSE and how much profit does it make?

SSE’s retail business, which provides energy to household customers, was sold to OVO Energy in January 2020.

OVO Energy reported that it had significantly reduced its losses in 2020 to £7 million — down from £103m the previous year. The company also reported a significant increase in revenues, from £1.5bn to £4.5bn.

Today (May 24), the company said its adjusted pre-tax profits climbed to £2.18bn from the end of March 2022 to the end of March 2023, up from almost £1.16bn the year before.

The sharp increase in full-year profits came as earnings from its gas-fired power plants surged almost fourfold to £1.24bn for the last financial year, up from £331.1m the year before.

Who owns Shell and how much profit does it make?

Shell is a British-Dutch-owned company, headquartered in the Netherlands, and is incorporated in the United Kingdom. The company, which first sold antiques and seashells, was expanded by the Samuels brothers in the 1880s into an oil-exporting business.

The Samuels brothers achieved a revolution in the transport of oil by using a tanker called the Murex across the Suez Canal to transfer oil.

Shell supplied the British Army with the majority of its fuel during World War I and made all of its ships —including the Murex — available to the British Admiralty.

Recently, Ben van Beurden, who has been CEO since January 1, 2014, was replaced by Wael Sawan.

In Sawan’s previous role as the head of Shell’s integrated gas and renewables division, he oversaw their growth into low-carbon energies, as well as its giant gas business.

Shell reported a record $40 billion (£32.5 billion) profit in 2022, capping a turbulent year in which a rise in energy prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine allowed it to provide shareholders with unheard-of profits.

They also reported a better-than-expected profit of $9.6bn (£7.6bn) for the first three months of this year, announcing that their earnings had out-performed the company’s previous first-quarter profit record set last year at $9.1bn for the same period, and were far higher than the $7.96bn predicted by industry analysts.

Oil and gas giant Shell also reported a better-than-expected profit of $9.6bn (£7.6bn) for the first three months of the year.

Shell announced record yearly earnings last month, announcing they had out-performed the company’s previous first-quarter profit record set last year at $9.1bn(£7.3bn) for the same period, and was far higher than the $7.96bn (£6.4bn) predicted by industry analysts.

Who owns British Gas and how much profit does it make? 

British Gas is owned by the company Centrica, which is the largest domestic gas supplier in the UK, and is also one of the largest electricity suppliers.

It was previously publically owned but in December 1986 the prime minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, privatised it.

Centrica owns British Gas and other energy companies, including Ireland’s Bord Gais Energy. In February, it reported a record operating profit of £3.3bn last year.

Who owns BP and how much profit does it make?

BP oil rigs (BP / PA)
BP oil rigs (BP / PA)

British Petroleum, better known as BP, is a British company founded in 1909.

Its top five shareholders are State Street, BlackRock, Dimensional Fund Advisors, Fisher Investments, and Menora Mivtachim.

With operations in nearly 80 countries, BP announced it made a profit of $5bn (£4bn) in the first three months of 2023.

Who owns Scottish Power and how much profit does it make? 

Scottish Power is owned by the Spanish utility firm Iberdrola.

In October 2021, Scottish Power reported a 39 per cent decline in underlying profits, at its division responsible for providing energy to domestic customers. It cited rising wholesale costs, as well as low wind volumes, as the key reasons for this.

In February this year, it was announced that underlying group profits in 2022 had risen 3.6 per cent to £1.6bn on a year earlier, due to increased wind volumes.

However, the group made a loss of £18m in its retail business — which, with 4.7 million customers, is the sixth biggest supplier — after slumping from a £3m profit the year before.

ScottishPower said the total volumes of gas it supplied to households, sourced from wholesale suppliers, fell 18.3 per cent in 2022, while electricity use was down 4.5 per cent.

Who owns Southern Water and how much profit does it make? 

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Southern Water supplies water and sewerage services to customers across the south of England. It loses 88.1 million litres of water per day from the pipes in its network.

Macquarie, the Australian banking group that controls Southern Water, posted record profits after a boom in its commodities trading division this February.

They recorded an annual net profit of A$5.18bn (£2.8bn), up 10 per cent on the previous year according to The Guardian. The profits outstripped analysts’ expectations of A$4.96bn (£2.6bn) for the 12 months to March 31, 2023.

Its shareholders took home £622 million in profit between 2013 and 2017. In 2021, Southern Water was ordered to pay a record £90m in fines for widespread pollution after pleading guilty to 6,971 unpermitted sewage discharges, according to Gov.uk.

The group’s Annual Report and Financial Statements are due in July this year.

Who owns EDF and how much profit does it make? 

EDF Energy is owned by the French energy supplier Électricité de France (EDF), which is itself owned by the French government.

It made a profit of £1.12bn in 2022 in the UK, following a loss of £21m the previous year.

Luc Remont, chairman and chief executive officer of EDF, said: “The 2022 results were significantly affected by the decline in our electricity output, and also by exceptional regulatory measures introduced in France in difficult market conditions.

“Despite all the challenges, EDF actively focused on service and support for all its residential and business customers, and made every endeavour to ensure the best generation fleet availability for the winter period.”

According to its own figures, it posted a loss of £154m in 2020.

Who owns E.ON and how much profit does it make? 

E.ON is owned by E.ON SE, an electricity supplier based in Essen, Germany. The company was formed in 1989 and was originally known as Powergen, before it was privatised in the 1990s.

The company also owns Npower, which it acquired in December 2018, and was previously owned by German multinational energy firm RWE.

In November 2021, its parent company reported a nine-month adjustment to earnings before interest and tax, of €3.93bn (£3.29bn), while its customer solutions arm more than doubled its profits to €910m (£810.4m).

Who owns Octopus Energy and how much profit does it make?

Octopus Energy founder and chief executive Greg Jackson (Octopus Energy)
Octopus Energy founder and chief executive Greg Jackson (Octopus Energy)

Octopus Energy is owned by Octopus Group, the fund-management company which founded the energy firm in 2015. Octopus Group has interests in venture capital, investment management, and real estate, as well as the energy sector.

In February this year, Octopus posted a £92.7 million profit, representing a 98 per cent increase year-on-year; and £268.7 million turnover, an increase of 41 per cent on the previous year.