Cold winter gives boost to Centrica

Steve Dinneen
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THE cold winter has put British Gas owner Centrica on course for a positive first half.

It said gas consumption was seven per cent higher in the first quarter of 2010 than the year before. Electricity consumption rose by two per cent, compared to 2009.

It also added an extra 200,000 customers in the first quarter after slashing its prices by seven per cent. The number of joint energy and services households it serves was up 50,000.

The company, which operates as British Gas and Scottish Gas, is the UK’s biggest retail energy supplier, with 15.9m gas and electricity accounts.

Analysts say the firm is on track to beat the £100m year-on-year cost savings it had targeted.

Centrica said its gas-fired power stations continued to put in a strong operating performance, with reliability at 99 per cent.

A Centrica spokesman said: “Overall the outlook for group earnings for the full year remains positive, subject to the usual variables of commodity price movements and weather patterns.

“In the UK, our integrated energy model is performing well in the current low wholesale commodity price environment.

“Given current trading conditions, residential energy supply is expected to perform strongly in 2010 with profit heavily weighted towards the first half.”

In North America, Centrica said its Direct Energy residential and business energy supply businesses have made a good start to 2010.

However, it says lower wholesale gas and power prices are tightly squeezing the financial performance of its gas production and power station assets.