(Reuters) - United Utilities Group Plc (UU.L), the largest of Britain’s three publicly-listed water suppliers by market value, posted a slightly higher first-half profit, helped by new pricing regulations and lower spending on infrastructure improvements.Shares in the water utility, which supplies water across Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria, rose as much as 1.8 percent, before paring some gains to trade at 910.5 pence by 0827 GMT on the London Stock Exchange.
Underlying operating profit rose 1.4 percent to 313 million pounds ($388 million) in the six months ended Sept. 30, United said on Wednesday.
However, revenue fell 0.4 percent to 853 million pounds, partly due to the company combining a part of its sales unit in its Water Plus joint venture with peer Severn Trent (SVT.L).
Despite a lacklustre performance and concerns around regulatory reviews, utility shares had risen after Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union drove investors to defensive stocks such as utility companies, which are seen as “bond-proxies” due to their regular and high returns.
The UK water sector would be stable over the next 12-18 months as companies have good visibility over revenues up to 2020, Moody’s said in a note last month.
United raised its interim dividend by 1.1 percent to 12.95 pence on Wednesday.
Reporting by Sanjeeban Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Sunil Nair