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Centrica lays out plans to slash investments

Boss announces plans to close two Lincolnshire power stations

BRITISH Gas owner Centrica unveiled plans yesterday to slash power infrastructure investment after a “very difficult” 2014 saw profits drop to £3,327 per minute.

Full-year figures saw Centrica rack up £1.75 billion and hand out £867 million to shareholders.

But with profits 35 per cent down on 2013 boss Iain Conn announced plans to close two Lincolnshire power stations and slash investment.

Blaming a warmer winter and falls in wholesale energy prices for the plunge, he moaned that it had been “a very difficult year for Centrica and the recent fall in oil and gas prices creates further challenge.”

In a vow to shareholders, he added: “We are cutting investment and costs in response.”

Despite the challenges business and residential supply wing British Gas clocked up £823m in profit last year.

Industry union GMB warned that what amounted a planned investment strike by Centrica was “bad news” and part of a “long-term problem.”

The current financial downturn in the sector was just “a blip,” but the country’s need for infrastructure investment remained urgent.

“Investment isn’t happening and the lights are dimming,” said GMB national officer for energy Gary Smith.

“We need an urgent meeting involving government, industry and GMB to start the real debate on the action we need to take on energy.”

Centrica’s profit announcement comes a day after regulator the Competition and Markets Authority accused “big six” firms including British Gas of overcharging customers by up to £234 a year.

Mr Smith said: “The CMA should grasp the nettle and enable the regulator set the price for the bulk of customers who do not switch.

“That is the simple way of stopping customers being ripped off.”

He added that he feared a race to the bottom without state intervention.

“If the CMA deem a business model that depends on outsourced and offshore call centres to be more efficient, it could trigger thousands of job losses in the UK and ultimately consumers will suffer,” said Mr Smith.

“Companies should not be penalised for doing the right thing, like investing in apprenticeships, call centres based onshore and in other jobs.”
newsed@peoples-press.com

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