BG LOSES MARKET
According to FT, nearly 400,000 UK households left British Gas in the first six months of this year, as the company found its market share being taken by independent energy suppliers.
The energy group lost 399,00 domestic energy supply accounts from January to June, according to its parent company Centrica, which announced its half-year results on Thursday.
It blamed those losses on an unusual number of people ending their energy contracts at the same time, adding that it had increased its number of customers in June.
The figures underline the difficulties being faced by some of the UK's "big six" energy suppliers. Many have seen profits fall in their electricity generation business as the wholesale cost of electricity has dropped, while also being criticised for not cutting retail prices more quickly.
Claire Osborne, energy analyst at uSwitch, the price comparison service, said: "Energy suppliers big and small continue to eat away at British Gas's market share. The only way that British Gas can start to win back customers is by launching new, competitive deals."
In the first half of the year, Centrica suffered falling profits in both its gas exploration and production business, as well as its power generation arm. That, combined with record warm winter weather in North America, meant adjusted operating profit fell 12 per cent from the same time last year to £853m. Once one-off gains were factored in, such as money raised from selling oil and gas assets and its interest in a wind farm, operating profits jumped 31 per cent to £1.8bn.
Its interim dividend rose 0.03p to 3.6p per share.
Shares in Centrica rose 1.5 per cent to 245.6p after the results on Thursday morning.
Amid the wider downturn affecting energy businesses as a result of falling oil and gas prices, Centrica has been trying to cut costs. It said on Thursday it had removed £141m of costs during the first half of the year, and increased its target for the full year to £300m.
Iain Conn, Centrica's chief executive, said: "The first half of the year has been demanding for Centrica, but the response has been strong and I am encouraged by the progress we have made. We are delivering underlying performance improvement and are building a robust platform for customer-focused growth."
He added: "I remain confident in our ability to deliver both attractive returns and underlying cash flow growth, as we continue to implement our strategy."
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