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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 09:56 GMT
Centrica profits heat up to 1bn
Electricity pylon
Strong growth in the North American market has helped Centrica increase annual profit by 15%.

Since its demerger from British Gas, the firm has expanded beyond the UK, buying US businesses and becoming a telecoms and customer service provider.

The group revealed full-year profits of 1bn, up from 870m the year before.

While profit in the US more than doubled to 130m, Centrica's British Gas unit was hit by a combination of warm weather and high commodity costs.

Centrica said it had made "steady progress" in 2003, adding that its promising outlook had prompted a 35% rise in its annual dividend to 5.4p a share.

North America led the way , with turnover rising 112% following the first full-year impact of its retail energy acquisitions in Texas.

Good year for AA

British Gas increased turnover by 2.4% to 6.2bn, helped by an increase in its electricity market share, higher prices and growth in its home services business.

But significant increases in commodity and transport costs pushed operating profit 16% lower to 206m.

Elsewhere, the group's AA roadside services and personal finance operation enjoyed a strong year with turnover up almost 5% to 797m and operating profits jumping 27% to 93m.

The firm also said it wanted to expand its gas and power businesses in 2004.

It also plans to invest about 100m a year in increasing gas reserves, in an effort to support UK customer demand.

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