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Last Updated: Monday, 9 May, 2005, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
Centrica loses more gas customers
British Gas van and engineer
Customers continue to leave British Gas
Centrica, which owns the British Gas brand, has said it lost 382,000 energy accounts in the three months to May.

Earlier this year, the firm had said it would focus on winning back customers it had lost in 2004.

However, on Monday the company said it "no longer expects to hold its energy product holdings flat in 2005".

Since 2003, the cost of gas for British Gas domestic customers has increased by 22%, while the price of electricity has risen by 18%.

The winter period remains uncertain for all energy suppliers
Roy Gardner, Centrica chief executive

Recently Centrica has been the subject of rumours surrounding a possible deal with Norwegian energy group Norsk Hydro.

Centrica warned that trading conditions could be more tricky through 2005 and 2006 if wholesale energy prices remain at current levels.

And, despite recent increases in prices for domestic customers, it flagged up further possible rises to protect its margins.

Billing system

"Financially we have had an encouraging start to the year, but the winter period remains uncertain for all energy suppliers in the light of continued increases in forward wholesale commodity prices," said chief executive Roy Gardner in a statement.

"We will continue to take all the steps we can to mitigate the impact on our customers, but retail price rises across the whole of the industry cannot be ruled out," he added.

In February Centrica reported a 16% rise in operating profits to 1.2bn ($2.3bn).

Operating profits at the group's British Gas arm rose 64% to 337m - a figure that came in for criticism from consumer group Energywatch.

Sir Roy told shareholders that costs were being cut, and a new billing system is to be tested from the middle of the year.




SEE ALSO:
British Gas seeks customer growth
24 Feb 05 |  Business
British Gas loses a million users
10 Dec 04 |  Business
Centrica warns on the cost of gas
29 Jul 04 |  Business
British Gas owner cuts 850 jobs
03 Jun 04 |  Business


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