May 15, 2014 / 8:11 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-National Grid to spend more in U.S. for storm protection

* Full-year profit rises 1 percent

* U.S. capex to rise to $2.5 billion

* EPS at 54 pence, above expectations (Recasts to focus on U.S. spending, adds details, share price, analyst comment)

LONDON, May 15 (Reuters) - British energy network operator National Grid will spend more money on its U.S. business in coming years to help protect its cables and pipelines against heavy storms, it said on Thursday.

The company, which reported a 1 percent rise in annual profit, expects capital expenditure in the United States to rise to $2.5 billion, Chief Executive Steve Holliday said, from around $2 billion spent in the 2013/14 financial year.

National Grid’s assets are exposed to increasingly severe weather conditions like thunderstorms and flooding, the effects of which cost the company up to 60 million pounds ($101 million)in the ice-storm that hit the United States over the past year.

The company also announced on Thursday higher-than-expected earnings per share of 54 pence for the year ended March 31, benefiting from new regulated prices it charges for using its cables and pipelines.

“The outlook for National Grid remains strong and relatively low risk,” said equity analysts at Liberum.

Shares in National Grid were trading 0.3 percent lower at 859 pence at 0828 GMT.

The firm, which runs Britain’s electricity and gas pipelines, also warned that spare electricity production capacity would tighten again this winter as around 1,700 megawatts of power generation will be shut down.

“Nobody will ever guarantee the lights won’t go off ... But everything being normal, we should be able to do our job and keep the system in balance over the course of the winter,” Holliday said.

Britain is facing an electricity capacity crunch as unprofitable and polluting power plants are closed down, while new stations are slow to start operating.

National Grid is likely to start implementing a new mechanism this winter whereby contracted energy consumers reduce their demand at times of high pressure on the electricity system.

The company’s full-year operating profit rose 1 percent year-on-year to 3.66 billion pounds and it said it had invested more than 3.4 billion on improving its infrastructure assets.

The firm also said it expected to pay a full-year dividend of 42.03 pence a share, up 3 percent on the previous year.

$1 = 0.5960 British Pounds Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter

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