Dividend Champion CEO to Leave SSE


LONDON -- The shares of SSE were trading 47 pence, or 3%, lower at 1,389 pence during afternoon trading today after the company revealed the departure of its current boss.

Ian Marchant will step down after ten years in charge of the FTSE 100 utility group on July 1. Alistair Philips-Davies, currently SSE's deputy chief executive, will take the top job.

Mr Marchant said:

I have been tremendously privileged to be part of a team that has created SSE in to a company with a solid platform for future growth. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as chief executive but feel that, after 10 years, the time is right for a change for both SSE and me. I am sure that SSE will continue to go from strength to strength under Alistair's leadership. As for me, I am looking forward to new challenges -- whatever they may be!

Lord Smith of Kelvin, SSE's chairman, added: "I'd like to thank Ian... In every one of his years as chief executive, SSE has delivered above-inflation increases in the dividend while making significant progress throughout its operations, including the quality of service provided to network and retail customers, and in other key areas such as the development of renewable energy."

Marchant must be among the FTSE 100's most dependable bosses for income. He was appointed chief executive of SSE during 2002, at which point the firm's dividend was running at 32.4 pence per share. Since then, Marchant has ensured the payout has advanced every year to reach 75 pence per share by 2011.

The latest half-year payout was lifted 5% and, if the current-year payout is lifted 5% as well, Marchant's tenure will have overseen an annual 9% compound dividend advance.

SSE's website claims the group has "just one strategic priority: sustained real dividend growth" and says the utility is one of just five FTSE 100 companies to have delivered a real dividend increase every year since 1999.

Emphasizing SSE's payout obsession, Marchant ensured the word "dividend" appeared 96 times within the firm's latest half-year results. A similar count for fellow utilities National Grid and United Utilities revealed 34 and 32 mentions, respectively.

Right now, SSE's shares are forecast to yield 5.7%, making the company just one of a number of FTSE large caps that offers a dividend income well ahead of what you can expect to receive from a standard savings account.

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