Centrica on track to meet profit forecast

CENTRICA, which owns British Gas, continued to perform well during the third quarter it said yesterday.

The group forecast operating profit for the year would be slightly ahead of market expectations of around £2.2bn although this would be slightly offset by interest and tax charges relating to several joint ventures.

Centrica said interest charges were likely to be over £200m adding net debt stood at £3bn at the end of the third quarter. Based on current estimates of the mix of profits Centrica expects its effective tax rate for the financial year to be around 37 per cent.

Last week British Gas said it was increasing household gas prices by seven per cent at the start of December, blaming network charges and environmental obligations as well as a rise in wholesale prices for gas and electricity. Yet in July, it said half-year profits had been boosted by the then low level of wholesale gas prices. British Gas also said it had boosted residential energy accounts by 270,000, this year.

Audrey Gallacher, head of energy at Consumer Focus, said: “Customers will be baffled as to why they are being told to pay more when British Gas are on track for such huge profits.”