Centrica warns surprise tax hike means higher bills for customers

ENERGY giant Centrica yesterday warned customers to brace themselves for bill rises as the Treasury’s tax hike on oil and gas firms starts to eat into the firm’s earnings.

The firm said the surprise tax raid would cost the company £300m this year, and it expects to report “more modest” growth in the future as a result.

Centrica has already threatened to permanently close its Morecambe Bay gas field in response to the hike, which it says might now be unprofitable.

The company said the UK market was “significantly more challenging” than a year ago, with average residential gas consumption in the first four months of the year 19 per cent lower than for the same period in 2010.

The British Gas owner also flagged the continuing unrest in the Middle East and the Japan nuclear crisis for pushing up power costs. Production remained strong, however, with the company predicting in-line production of more than 50m barrels of oil equivalent this year.