Rise in household gas use offsets fall in business demand at Centrica

City A.M. Reporter
BRITISH gas owner Centrica said yesterday the weak UK economy was impacting demand among business customers, though cost cuts were enabling it to stay on track for growth in its residential division.

It expected to deliver overall earnings growth in 2012 in line with market expectations, the company said in a trading statement yesterday.

This includes double-digit profit growth in the residential arm, helping to offset the 43,000 business accounts that British Gas has lost since the end of June.

Unusually cool weather conditions over the summer meant that average household gas consumption had risen nine per cent in the year to October compared to the previous year, it said.

But the group said the cold snap masked an underlying drop in demand for gas, as households take steps to be more energy efficient.

British Gas, the country’s largest natural gas supplier, is putting up prices six per cent from today, an unpopular move among Brits struggling with rising bills and stagnant wages.

The other “big six” energy suppliers are also increasing prices, citing higher wholesale costs as well as the need to upgrade networks.

Public anger over rising utility prices alongside bumper profits at the companies has deepened in recent days over a scandal about alleged irregular trades in the gas market.

Centrica has distanced itself from the allegations, saying on Wednesday that an internal review showed there was nothing unusual about its gas trading on 28 September, the day under investigation.