Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Record [Pounds Sterling]1.5bn Gas Profits Days after 22% Rise in Prices

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Record [Pounds Sterling]1.5bn Gas Profits Days after 22% Rise in Prices

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN PRYNN

THE OWNER of British Gas today revealed record profits days after it announced the biggest ever energy price rise.

Centrica's operating profits rose 11 per cent to [pounds sterling]1.51 billion last year.

The announcement triggered angry protests from consumer groups and unions.

British Gas said last Friday the soaring wholesale cost of gas would push domestic prices up by 22 per cent from next month. But today's figures show Centrica's profits from gas production rose 31 per cent to [pounds sterling]1.02 billion, while its profits from gas storage more than doubled to [pounds sterling]154 million.

Shareholders have benefited, with the dividend up 22 per cent to 10.5p a share, a total of [pounds sterling]340 million.

"This is a good time to be a Centrica shareholder and a bad time to be a British Gas customer," said Karen Darby, chief executive of utility switching company Simplyswitch.com.

The higher profits are also likely to trigger higher bonus payments to the company's directors and senior executives.

Chief executive Sir Roy Gardner, who was paid [pounds sterling]1.62 million in 2004 and almost certainly more in 2005, described gas and electricity price rises as " unfortunate but inevitable" after a year in which the wholesale gas price rose an unprecedented 43 per cent.

He said operating profits from the company's British Gas domestic energy supply fell 63 per cent to [pounds sterling]90 million for the year as a whole, with a [pounds sterling]75 million loss in the second half. …

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