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SSE and innogy appoint Dixons Carphone boss to lead merged supply outfit

SSE and innogy have appointed Dixons Carphone chief Katie Bickerstaffe to lead the proposed merger of their respective supply arms.

Bickerstaffe, who has served as a non-executive director of SSE since April 2011, has been appointed chief executive designate for the new independent supply company first proposed in November last year.

She is to take up the role later this year ahead of the new entity’s formation, slated to occur in either Q4 2018 or Q1 2019, and her duties will be restricted to leading the new company’s listing. SSE has been quick to stress that Bickerstaffe will not be involved in the leadership or management of either SSE or innogy’s UK-facing supply company Npower during the interim.

Bickerstaffe has experience of leading firms in the wake of a merger having served as executive director of Dixons Carphone, the result of a £3.8 billion merger between high street electronics retailers Carphone Warehouse and Dixons in 2014, since its formation. She was then appointed as its UK and Ireland chief executive in 2015.

Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive at SSE, welcomed Bickerstaffe’s “excellent credentials in retail” and said she would bring “enormous capacity to unlock the great potential that exists” in the combination of SSE and Npower.

“Having served on the Board of SSE she also has excellent insight into the challenges and opportunities of the retail energy market in Great Britain. Her appointment is another important milestone and reinforces the commitment from both SSE and innogy to completing the transaction and setting the new company up for success,” he said.

Martin Hermann, retail COO at innogy, said the companies were “right on schedule” with preparations for the merger and that the decision on a new chief executive was a “really positive sign of the progress” the firms are making.

Bickerstaffe is to stand down from her position on SSE’s board at the end of the month, but said she was delighted to be given the opportunity to lead the new energy supply and services company at a time when the sector is “undergoing an exciting transformation”.

“There is a great opportunity to create a more agile, innovative and efficient company that really delivers for customers. Over the coming months, I want to listen to as many customers, employees and other stakeholders as possible to make sure this new company has the values, strategy and focus that customers need now and in the future," she said.

Aside from Phillips-Davies teasing that the new supplier would bring about a “completely new model” for the UK supply market in December, the two companies have so far remained coy about their ambitions and plans for the supplier.

In February the Competition and Markets Authority opened an investigation of the proposed merger, but a more complex hurdle to the deal could be posed by the far more significant deal involving RWE and E.On, which would see innogy become a division of E.On rather than RWE.