Centrica profit rise fuelled by cold spell

CENTRICA yesterday reported a sharp rise in full-year profit, boosted by higher power demand during the severe winter and as it added more residential customers.

The energy company, which owns Britain’s biggest household energy supplier British Gas, reported an adjusted operating profit of £2.39bn, on sales marginally higher at £22.4bn

Analysts expected an operating profit of £2.31bn, on revenue of £21.8bn.

“British Gas has had a strong year, both operationally and financially... meeting around 30 per cent of the country’s total gas demand,” the company said.

The number of British Gas accounts increased by 529,000, while residential energy accounts were up by 267,000 as Britain was hit by a severe winter and one of the coldest Decembers on record.

The group also increased its full-year dividend by nearly 12 per cent to 14.3p.

On Wednesday Centrica signed its first long-term contract to buy liquefied natural gas from the world’s biggest LNG exporter, Qatar -- a deal worth about £2bn at current UK market prices.

Adam Forsyth an analyst at Matrix: said: “With a generally rising wholesale price environment in both gas and electricity, we think Centrica will struggle to retain this level of profitability in supply in the coming years.

He added: “The one high point was the dividend.”

Centrica’s shares yesterday closed 0.5 per cent lower at 333.6p.