Risk management

The board is responsible for treasury strategy and governance, which is reviewed on an annual basis.

The treasury committee, a subcommittee of the board, has responsibility for setting and monitoring the group's adherence to treasury policies, along with oversight in relation to the activities of the treasury function.

Treasury policies cover the key financial risks: liquidity risk, credit risk, market risk (inflation, interest rate, electricity price and currency) and capital risk. These policies are reviewed by the treasury committee for approval on at least an annual basis, or following any major changes in treasury operations and/or financial market conditions.

Day-to-day responsibility for operational compliance with the treasury policies rests with the treasurer. An operational compliance report is provided monthly to the treasury committee, which details the status of the group's compliance with the treasury policies and highlights the level of risk against the appropriate risk limits in place.

The group's treasury function does not act as a profit centre and does not undertake any speculative trading activity.

Liquidity risk

The group looks to manage its liquidity risk by maintaining liquidity within a board-approved duration range. Liquidity is actively monitored by the group's treasury function and is reported monthly to the treasury committee through the operational compliance report.

At 31 March 2019, the group had £1,039.3 million (2018: £1,205.0 million) of available liquidity, which comprised £339.3 million (2018: £510.0 million) of cash and short-term deposits and £700.0 million (2018: £695.0 million) of undrawn committed borrowing facilities.

The group had available committed borrowing facilities as follows:

Group2019
£m
2018
£m
Expiring within one year100.0100.0
Expiring after one year but in less than two years50.0150.0
Expiring after more than two years650.0500.0
Total borrowing facilities800.0750.0
Facilities drawn(1)(100.0)(55.0)
Undrawn borrowing facilities700.0695.0

Note:

  1. Facilities expiring after more than two years.

These facilities are arranged on a bilateral rather than a syndicated basis, which spreads the maturities more evenly over a longer time period, thereby reducing the refinancing risk by providing several renewal points rather than a large single refinancing point.

Company

The company did not have any committed facilities available at 31 March 2019 or 31 March 2018.

Maturity analysis

Concentrations of risk may arise if large cash flows are concentrated within particular time periods. The maturity profile in the following table represents the forecast future contractual principal and interest cash flows in relation to the group's financial liabilities on an undiscounted basis. Derivative cash flows have been shown net where there is a contractual agreement to settle on a net basis; otherwise the cash flows are shown gross.

Group
At 31 March 2019
Total(1)
£m
Adjust-
ment(2)
£m
1 year or less
£m
1–2 years
£m
2–3 years
£m
3–4 years
£m
4–5 years
£m
More than 5 years
£m
Bonds10,174.4583.4129.1504.9109.2110.18,737.7
Bank and other term borrowings3,008.0293.3680.4125.1356.1125.41,427.7
Adjustment to carrying value(2)(5,366.6)(5,366.6)
Borrowings7,815.8(5,366.6)876.7809.5630.0465.3235.510,165.4
Derivatives:
Payable1,389.0510.243.736.632.630.1735.8
Receivable(1,825.0)(607.0)(71.5)(70.2)(93.8)(64.7)(917.8)
Adjustment to carrying value(2)26.826.8
Derivatives – net assets(409.2)26.8(96.8)(27.8)(33.6)(61.2)(34.6)(182.0)
Group
At 31 March 2018
Total(1)
£m
Adjust-
ment(2)
£m
1 year or less
£m
1–2 years
£m
2–3 years
£m
3–4 years
£m
4–5 years
£m
More than 5 years
£m
Bonds10,343.8733.9585.7116.7492.596.78,318.3
Bank and other term borrowings3,119.3289.4125.2682.5124.5355.31,542.4
Adjustment to carrying value(2)(5,550.8)(5,550.8)
Borrowings7,912.3(5,550.8)1,023.3710.9799.2617.0452.09,860.7
Derivatives:
Payable1,382.5404.4475.628.622.419.7431.8
Receivable(1,885.7)(750.0)(546.9)(28.7)(28.7)(51.6)(479.8)
Adjustment to carrying value(2)(31.3)(31.3)
Derivatives – net assets(534.5)(31.3)(345.6)(71.3)(0.1)(6.3)(31.9)(48.0)

Notes:

  1. Forecast future cash flows are calculated, where applicable, using forward interest rates based on the interest environment at year end and are therefore susceptible to changes in market conditions. For index-linked debt it has been assumed that RPI will be three per cent and CPI will be two per cent over the life of each instrument.
  2. The carrying value of debt is calculated following various methods in accordance with IFRS 9 'Financial Instruments' and therefore this adjustment reconciles the undiscounted forecast future cash flows to the carrying value of debt in the statement of financial position.

Company

The company has total borrowings of £0.5 million (2018: £0.5 million), which are payable within one year, and £1,718.4 million (2018: £1,690.3 million), which are payable within one to two years.

Credit risk

Credit risk arises principally from trading (the supply of services to customers) and treasury activities (the depositing of cash and holding of derivative instruments). While the opening of the non-household retail market to competition from 1 April 2017 has impacted on the profile of the group's concentration of credit risk, as discussed further below, the group does not believe it is exposed to any material concentrations that could have an impact on its ability to continue as a going concern or its longer-term viability.

The group manages its risk from trading through the effective management of customer relationships. Concentrations of credit risk with respect to trade receivables are limited due to the majority of the group's customer base being comprised of a large number of unrelated households. The Water Industry Act 1991 (as amended by the Water Industry Act 1999) prohibits the disconnection of a water supply and the limiting of supply with the intention of enforcing payment for certain premises, including domestic dwellings.

Following the non-household retail market opening to competition, credit risk in this area is now concentrated in a small number of retailers to whom the group provides wholesale water and wastewater services. Retailers are licensed and monitored by Ofwat and as part of the regulations they must demonstrate that they have adequate resources available to supply services. The group's retail customers are on 30-day credit terms in respect of trading transactions. As at 31 March 2019, Water Plus was the group's single largest debtor, with amounts outstanding in relation to wholesale services of £39.1 million (2018: £42.2 million). During the year, sales to Water Plus in relation to wholesale services were £454.8 million (2018: £495.4 million). Details of transactions with Water Plus can be found in note A6.

Under the group's revenue recognition policy, revenue is only recognised when collection of the resulting receivable is reasonably assured. Considering the above, the directors believe there is no further credit risk provision required in excess of the allowance for doubtful receivables (see note 15). An allowance is made by the water regulator in the price limits at each price review for a proportion of debt deemed to be irrecoverable.

The group manages its credit risk from treasury activities by establishing a total credit limit by counterparty, which comprises a counterparty credit limit and an additional settlement limit to cover intra-day gross settlement of cash flows. In addition, potential derivative exposure limits are also established to take account of potential future exposure which may arise under derivative transactions. These limits are calculated by reference to a measure of capital and credit ratings of the individual counterparties and are subject to a maximum single counterparty limit. Credit limits are refreshed annually and reviewed in the event of any credit rating action. Additionally, a control mechanism to trigger a review of specific counterparty limits, irrespective of credit rating action, is in place. This entails daily monitoring of counterparty credit default swap levels and/or share price volatility. Credit exposure is monitored daily by the group's treasury function and is reported monthly to the treasury committee through the operational compliance report.

At 31 March 2019 and 31 March 2018, the maximum exposure to credit risk for the group and company is represented by the carrying amount of each financial asset in the statement of financial position:

GroupCompany
2019
£m
2018
£m
2019
£m
2018
£m
Cash and short-term deposits (see note 16)339.3510.0
Trade and other receivables (see note 15)*397.6402.082.274.2
Investments (see note 13)11.57.1
Derivative financial instruments489.1635.5
1,237.51,554.682.274.2

* Included within trade and other receivables is £143.5 million of amounts owed by joint ventures in respect of borrowings, further details of which are disclosed in note A6.

The credit exposure on derivatives is disclosed gross of any collateral held. At 31 March 2019, the group held £52.0 million (2018: £106.7 million) as collateral in relation to derivative financial instruments (included within short-term bank borrowings – fixed in note A3).

Market risk

The group's exposure to market risk primarily results from its financing arrangements and the economic return which it is allowed on the regulatory capital value (RCV).

The group uses a variety of financial instruments, including derivatives, in order to manage the exposure to these risks.

Inflation risk

The group earns an economic return on its RCV, comprising a real return through revenues and an inflation return as an uplift to its RCV. Currently, the group's regulatory assets are linked to RPI inflation; however, following Ofwat's decision to transition to the use of CPIH for inflation indexation for the 2020–25 regulatory period, from 2020 the group's RCV will be 50 per cent linked to RPI inflation and 50 per cent linked to CPIH inflation, with any new additions being added to the CPIH portion of the RCV.

The group's inflation hedging policy aims to have around half of the group's net debt in index-linked form (where it is economic to do so), by issuing index-linked debt and/or swapping a portion of nominal debt. This is expected to remain mostly in RPI-linked form until CPI and/or CPIH debt and swaps become available in sufficient size at an economic cost.

The group believes this is an appropriate inflation hedging policy taking into account a balanced assessment of the following factors: economic hedge of United Utilities Water Limited's (UUW) RCV and revenues; cash flow timing mismatch between allowed cost of debt and the group's incurred cost of debt; the inflation risk premium that is generally incorporated into nominal debt costs; income statement volatility; hedging costs; debt maturity profile mismatch risk; and index-linked hedging positioning relative to the water sector.

As a result of the evaluation of the above factors, the group will continue to identify opportunities to maintain around 50 per cent of the group's net debt being hedged for inflation, which can be evidenced by issuing of CPI index-linked debt since 2017 and the swapping of RPI-linked debt to CPI after the reporting period as described in note 26. Inflation risk is reported monthly to the treasury committee in the operational compliance report.

The carrying value of index-linked debt held by the group was £3,775.8 million at 31 March 2019 (2018: £3,792.8 million).

Sensitivity analysis

The following table details the sensitivity of profit before tax to changes in the RPI and CPI on the group's index-linked borrowings. The sensitivity analysis has been based on the amount of index-linked debt held at the reporting date and, as such, is not indicative of the years then ended. In addition, it excludes the hedging aspect of the group's regulatory assets and post-retirement obligations.

Increase/(decrease) in profit before tax and equity2019
£m
2018
£m
1% increase in RPI/CPI(38.2)(37.7)
1% decrease in RPI/CPI38.237.7

The sensitivity analysis assumes a one per cent change in RPI and CPI having a corresponding one per cent impact on this position over a 12-month period. It should be noted, however, that there is a time lag by which current RPI and CPI changes impact on the income statement, and the analysis does not incorporate this factor. The portfolio of index-linked debt is calculated on either a three- or eight-month lag basis. Therefore, at the reporting date the index-linked interest and principal adjustments impacting the income statement are fixed and based on the annual RPI or CPI change either three or eight months earlier.

Company

The company had no material exposure to inflation risk at 31 March 2019 or 31 March 2018.

Interest rate risk

The group's policy is to structure debt in a way that best matches its underlying assets and cash flows. The group currently earns an economic return on its RCV, comprising a real return through revenues, determined by the real cost of capital fixed by the regulator for each five-year regulatory pricing period, and an inflation return as an uplift to its RCV (see inflation risk section for changes being introduced by Ofwat to inflation indexation from 2020).

In the next regulatory period, Ofwat intends to continue using materially the same methodology in setting a fixed real cost of debt in relation to embedded debt (currently assumed to be 70 per cent of net debt), but will introduce a debt indexation mechanism in relation to new debt (currently assumed to be 30 per cent of net debt).

Therefore, sterling index-linked debt is left unswapped at inception, in accordance with our inflation hedging policy goal to maintain around half of the group's net debt in index-linked form. Conventional nominal debt is hedged as set out below.

Where conventional long-term debt is raised in a fixed-rate form, to manage exposure to long-term interest rates, the debt is generally swapped at inception to create a floating rate liability for the term of the liability through the use of interest rate swaps. These instruments are typically designated within a fair value accounting hedge.

To manage the exposure to medium-term interest rates, the group fixes underlying interest rates on nominal debt out to 10 years in advance on a reducing balance basis, mirroring Ofwat's expected split of 70 per cent embedded and 30 per cent new debt. As such, at the start of each regulatory period, around 30 per cent of the projected nominal net debt for that regulatory period will remain floating until it is fixed via the above 10-year reducing balance basis, which should more closely mirror Ofwat's new debt indexation mechanism.

This interest rate hedging policy dovetails with our revised inflation hedging policy should we need to swap a portion of nominal debt to real rate form to maintain our desired mix of nominal and index-linked debt.

The group seeks to manage its risk by maintaining its interest rate exposure within a board-approved range. Interest rate risk is reported to the treasury committee through the operational compliance report.

Sensitivity analysis

The following table details the sensitivity of the group's profit before tax and equity to changes in interest rates. The sensitivity analysis has been based on the amount of net debt and the interest rate hedge positions in place at the reporting date and, as such, is not indicative of the years then ended.

GroupCompany
Increase/(decrease) in profit before tax and equity2019
£m
2018
£m
2019
£m
2018
£m
1% increase in interest rate130.2128.1(17.2)(16.9)
1% decrease in interest rate(141.3)(138.3)17.216.9

The sensitivity analysis assumes that both fair value hedges and borrowings designated at fair value through profit or loss are effectively hedged and it excludes the impact on post-retirement obligations. The exposure largely relates to fair value movements on the group's fixed interest rate swaps which manage the exposure to medium-term interest rates. Those swaps are not included in hedge relationships.

Repricing analysis

The following tables categorise the group's borrowings, derivatives and cash deposits on the basis of when they reprice or, if earlier, mature. The repricing analysis demonstrates the group's exposure to floating interest rate risk.

Our largest concentration of floating interest rate risk is with index-linked instruments. This has been classified as repricing in one year or less due to the refixing of the interest charge with changes in RPI and CPI.

Group
At 31 March 2019
Total
£m
1 year or less
£m
1–2 years
£m
2–3 years
£m
3–4 years
£m
4–5 years
£m
More than 5 years
£m
Borrowings in fair value hedge relationships
Fixed rate instruments2,765.8441.9406.21,917.7
Effect of swaps2,323.9(406.2)(1,917.7)
2,765.82,765.8
Borrowings designated at fair value through profit or loss
Fixed rate instruments373.9373.9
Effect of swaps373.9(373.9)
373.9373.9
Borrowings measured at amortised cost
Fixed rate instruments179.4152.60.60.70.70.724.1
Floating rate instruments720.9720.9
Index-linked instruments3,775.83,775.8
4,676.14,649.30.60.70.70.724.1
Effect of fixed interest rate swaps(2,330.9)148.550.0164.5575.01,392.9
Total borrowings7,815.85,458.1149.150.7165.2575.71,417.0
Cash and short-term deposits(339.3)(339.3)
Net borrowings7,476.55,118.8149.150.7165.2575.71,417.0
At 31 March 2018Total
£m
1 year or less
£m
1–2 years
£m
2–3 years
£m
3–4 years
£m
4–5 years
£m
More than 5 years
£m
Borrowings in fair value hedge relationships
Fixed rate instruments2,895.3583.2466.4411.51,434.2
Effect of swaps2,312.1(466.4)(411.5)(1,434.2)
2,895.32,895.3
Borrowings designated at fair value through profit or loss
Fixed rate instruments347.7347.7
Effect of swaps347.7(347.7)
347.7347.7
Borrowings measured at amortised cost
Fixed rate instruments189.4162.00.60.60.70.824.7
Floating rate instruments750.1750.1
Index-linked instruments3,729.83,729.8
4,669.34,641.90.60.60.70.824.7
Effect of fixed interest rate swaps(3,006.3)925.4252.150.0164.51,614.3
Total borrowings7,912.34,878.6926.0252.750.7165.31,639.0
Cash and short-term deposits(510.0)(510.0)
Net borrowings7,402.34,368.6926.0252.750.7165.31,639.0
CompanyTotal
£m
2019
1 year or less
£m
Total
£m
2018
1 year or less
£m
Borrowings measured at amortised cost
Floating rate instruments1,718.41,718.41,690.81,690.8
Total borrowings1,718.41,718.41,690.81,690.8

Electricity price risk

The group is allowed a fixed amount of revenue by the regulator, in real terms, to cover electricity costs for each five-year regulatory pricing period. To the extent that electricity prices remain floating over this period, this exposes the group to volatility in its operating cash flows. The group's policy, therefore, is to manage this risk by fixing a proportion of electricity commodity prices in a cost-effective manner. The group has fixed the price on a substantial proportion of its anticipated net electricity usage out to the end of the AMP in 2020 and has begun fixing prices for the subsequent AMP from 2020 to 2025, partially through entering into electricity swap contracts.

The adoption of IFRS 9 'Financial Instruments' has enabled the group to designate electricity swaps into cash flow hedge relationships. This means that only the impact of any hedging ineffectiveness is recognised through fair value in the income statement, with movements reflecting the effective portion of the swaps being recognised in other comprehensive income. As a result of this, changes in electricity prices are no longer significant sources of volatility in the income statement and therefore sensitivity analysis in this area will no longer be meaningful.

The company has no exposure to electricity price risk.

Currency risk

Currency exposure principally arises in respect of funding raised in foreign currencies.

To manage exposure to currency rates, foreign currency debt is hedged into sterling through the use of cross-currency swaps and these are often designated within a fair value accounting hedge.

The group seeks to manage its risk by maintaining currency exposure within board-approved limits. Currency risk in relation to foreign currency denominated financial instruments is reported monthly to the treasury committee through the operational compliance report.

The group and company have no material net exposure to movements in currency rates.

Capital risk management

The group's objective when managing capital is to maintain efficient access to debt capital markets throughout the economic cycle. The board therefore believes that it is appropriate to maintain RCV gearing, measured as group consolidated net debt (including derivatives) to regulatory capital value (RCV) of UUW, within a target range of 55 per cent to 65 per cent. As at 31 March 2019, RCV gearing was 61 per cent (2018: 61 per cent), which is comfortably within this range.

Assuming no significant changes to existing rating agencies' methodologies or sector risk assessments, the group aims to maintain, as a minimum, credit ratings of A3 with Moody's Investors Service (Moody's) and BBB+ with Standard & Poor's Ratings Services (Standard & Poor's) for UUW and debt issued by its financing subsidiary, United Utilities Water Finance PLC.

In order to maintain its targeted minimum credit ratings, the group needs to manage its capital structure with reference to the ratings methodology and measures used by Moody's and Standard & Poor's. The ratings methodology is normally based on a number of key ratios (such as RCV gearing, adjusted interest cover and Funds from Operations (FFO) to debt) and threshold levels as updated and published from time to time by Moody's and Standard & Poor's. The group looks to manage its risk by maintaining the relevant key financial ratios used by the credit rating agencies to determine a corporate's credit rating, within the thresholds approved by the board. Capital risk is reported monthly to the treasury committee through the operational compliance report.

Further detail on the precise measures and methodologies used to assess water companies' credit ratings can be found in the methodology papers published by the rating agencies.

Fair values

The table below sets out the valuation basis of financial instruments held at fair value and financial instruments where fair value has been separately disclosed in the notes as the carrying value is not a reasonable approximation of fair value.

Group
2019
Level 1
£m
Level 2
£m
Level 3
£m
Total
£m
Financial assets at fair value through profit or loss
Derivative financial assets – fair value hedge329.4329.4
Derivative financial assets – held for trading(1)158.5158.5
Derivative financial assets – cash flow hedge(2)1.21.2
Investments(3)11.511.5
Financial liabilities at fair value through profit or loss
Derivative financial liabilities – fair value hedge(2.3)(2.3)
Derivative financial liabilities –held for trading(1)(75.9)(75.9)
Derivative financial liabilities – cash flow hedge(2)(1.7)(1.7)
Financial liabilities designated as fair value through profit or loss(373.9)(373.9)
Financial instruments for which fair value has been disclosed
Financial liabilities in fair value hedge relationships(2,316.9)(432.4)(2,749.3)
Other financial liabilities at amortised cost(680.9)(5,101.0)(5,781.9)
(2,997.8)(5,486.6)(8,484.4)
2018Level 1
£m
Level 2
£m
Level 3
£m
Total
£m
Available for sale financial assets
Investments7.17.1
Financial assets at fair value through profit or loss
Derivative financial assets – fair value hedge455.7455.7
Derivative financial assets – held for trading(1)179.8179.8
Financial liabilities at fair value through profit or loss
Derivative financial liabilities – fair value hedge(24.2)(24.2)
Derivative financial liabilities – held for trading(1)(76.8)(76.8)
Financial liabilities designated as fair value through profit or loss(347.7)(347.7)
Financial instruments for which fair value has been disclosed
Financial liabilities in fair value hedge relationships(2,192.4)(713.5)(2,905.9)
Other financial liabilities at amortised cost(2,425.6)(3,372.8)(5,798.4)
(4,618.0)(3,892.4)(8,510.4)

Notes:

  1. These derivatives form economic hedges and, as such, management intends to hold these through to maturity. Derivatives forming an economic hedge of the currency exposure on borrowings included in these balances were £151.3 million (2018: £151.8 million).
  2. On adoption of IFRS 9 'Financial Instruments', electricity swaps, previously classified as held for trading under IAS 39 'Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement', have been designated in cash flow hedge relationships.
  3. Prior to the adoption of IFRS 9 'Financial Instruments' on 1 April 2018, investments were classified as available-for-sale financial assets in accordance with IAS 39 'Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement'.
  • Level 1 fair value measurements are those derived from quoted prices (unadjusted) in active markets for identical assets or liabilities;
  • Level 2 fair value measurements are those derived from inputs other than quoted prices included within level 1 that are observable for the asset or liability, either directly (i.e. as prices) or indirectly (i.e. derived from prices); and
  • Level 3 fair value measurements are those derived from valuation techniques that include inputs for the asset or liability that are not based on observable market data (unobservable).

The group has calculated fair values using quoted prices where an active market exists, which has resulted in £2,997.8 million (2018: £4,618.0 million) of 'level 1' fair value measurements. In the absence of an appropriate quoted price, the group has applied discounted cash flow valuation models utilising market available data in line with prior years. The £1,620.2 million decrease (2018: £1,914.0 million increase) in 'level 1' fair value measurements is largely due to a decrease in the number of observable quoted bond prices in active markets at 31 March 2019.

During the year, changes in the fair value of financial liabilities designated at fair value through profit or loss resulted in a £26.2 million loss (2018: £27.8 million gain). Included within this was a £6.6 million gain (2018: £24.0 million loss) attributable to changes in own credit risk. Following adoption of IFRS 9 'Financial Instruments', this £6.6 million gain has been recognised in other comprehensive income rather than profit or loss. The cumulative amount due to changes in credit spread was £44.8 million profit (2018: £38.2 million profit). The carrying amount is £147.8 million (2018: £145.6 million) higher than the amount contracted to settle on maturity.

Company

The company does not hold any financial instruments that are measured subsequent to initial recognition at fair value or where fair value has been separately disclosed in the notes as the carrying value is not a reasonable approximation of fair value.