Water firm Severn Trent has warned the coronavirus crisis is likely to lead to unpaid household water bills over the next year and a decline in sales to businesses.
The company, which serves millions of people across the Midlands and Mid Wales, said it has stepped up its support for customers that need extra help with their bills.
It comes as Severn Trent saw its turnover jump during its latest financial year, with pre-tax profits also rising.
Turnover rose from £1.7 billion to £1.8 billion in the 12 months to March 31 2020.
Its profits before interest and tax also increased from £563.3 million to £568.2 million over the same period.
Severn Trent suffered a £46.8 million loss from the Water Plus joint venture – which is being significantly hurt by the coronavirus – and an exceptional deferred tax charge of £91.8 million.
The company said the coronavirus pandemic was increasing bad debts, which totalled £42.5 million.
For the current fiscal year, it it expects regulated turnover to fall to the £1.51 billion to £1.55 billion range from £1.62 billion, dragged by Covid-19.
Liv Garfield, chief executive of Severn Trent, said: “Operationally, this has been another year where we have delivered for all of our stakeholders. However, the last few weeks have been extraordinary; not only for our business, but for the country.
“We know that this is a difficult time for our customers, and I am incredibly proud of the ways in which the business has responded.
“We also understand that for many people this will be a difficult time financially, and we have stepped up our support for those on our Priority Services Register and customers that need extra help with their bills.
“Our business remains strong and we have made further progress against the things that really matter to our customers with leakage, supply interruptions and water quality complaints all improving.
“We have invested £3 billion in our long-term future over the past five years and are now very focused on emerging from this crisis in the best possible shape to deliver against the exciting plans we have set out for the next five years.”