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Independent Energy collapses

Independent Energy, the entrepreneurial UK electricity and gas supplier, called in the receivers last month, leaving forensic accountants from KPMG to puzzle over how the company could plunge from a capitalisation of $2.3 billion to receivership in little more than six months.

Business assets and some 240 000 customers of Independent, which was once one of the London Stock Exchange's star performers, were snapped up by Innogy for just £10 million ($15 million).

Independent's problems began when it decided to move into the fiercely competitive residential electricity supply market. United Utilities' support services company, Vertex, was contracted to run a billing system, but according to reports was unable to send out invoices because of inadequate information.

With book debts totalling some £330 million ($470 million), Independent's collapse is the first in the UK's deregulated electricity and gas sector, and its demise has stunned market observers.

In a clear test of Ofgem, the industry watchdog, the disposal of the customer list was completed just before the regulator exercised its emergency powers to hand the customers over to their "supplier of last resort," their regional electricity company.

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