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Bills hitch puts Independent Energy in pain

by JONATHAN PRYNN Fast-growing electricity, gas and telecoms supplier Independent Energy has been forced to ask its bankers for extended credit after a billing fiasco left it with a huge cash shortfall.

The company said it had only been able to bill for #35 million of the #130 million electricity sales in the six months to end-December because of computer problems. Chief executive John Sulley said its main lender, Barclays, was prepared to tide the company through the crisis.

Extra staff and software needed to sort out the glitches will cost about #2 million. By yesterday, the company had been able to get out bills for #87 million out of a total of #166 million sales in the current financial year. Sulley said: 'We are now on the downward slope and I anticipate that within the next two to three months we will have caught up in billing.'

The problems, news of which wiped nearly #5 off the share price this week, were caused by regional electricity companies passing on poor or late data about customers switching to new suppliers such as Independent Energy, Sulley said.

The four-year-old company, which specialises in supplying small businesses but also has 120,000 domestic electricity customers, reported first-half pre-tax profits of #12.1 million, ahead of market expectations and up from #707,000 for the same period in 1998.

-- Martin Thompson (, February 16, 2000

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