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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 16:56 GMT
AA's online car dealing plan

AA patrolman and van
The AA brand is set for speedy expansion

The Automobile Association's new owner aims to broaden its range of operations to include helping its members buy and sell their cars online.

Centrica, which bought the roadside rescue service last year, also said it was close to deals with mobile phone operators about beaming information about traffic jams to their screens.

We've already got the data and we're in talks with all the major phone networks
Mark Clare, Centrica
The expansion of the AA brand was one of a raft of internet based ventures outlined by Centrica, which is part of what was formerly British Gas.

Best known for the British Gas brand, it has already diversified, and is hoping to become the UK's largest electricity supplier by the end of the year.

A Brisith Gas fired cooker Centrica aims to cook up some good deals for gas customers
Now it intends to take on the telecoms market, offering fixed line and mobile phone networks and internet access from September.

Centrica aims to have one million customers within its first year by offering cut-price deals for the 17.5 million existing customers of British and Scottish Gas.

It is to invest 75m in the venture this year and is close to announcing the location of a base for the operation in the UK employing 450 staff.

Hotels, restaurants online

The division's managing director is Saul Lanyado, formerly group managing director of GEC Marconi.

Centrica finance director Mark Clare said the AA's travel information would run on Wap phones, bleeping the mobile with traffic information alerts and give text information over the screen.

"We've already got the data and we're in talks with all the major phone networks," he said.

Job cuts at the AA will continue, following the loss of 800 positions last year.

AA's vast database of hotels, restaurants and other travel information would all be put online, he said.

Gas market drop

Its Goldfish financial services operation is also to be expanded on the web from a credit card and small loans division to include Isas, with-profit bonds, mortgages and share dealing operations.

The online initiatives were outlined as the company reported pre-tax profits for 1999 of 268m against 167m in 1998.

Turnover was 7.22bn against 7.48bn last time.

Its share of household gas sales declined as rival suppliers crept into the market following the introduction of full competition in May 1998. The former monopoly now has 73% of the market.

Centrica shares closed 1p higher at 182p.

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See also:
06 Jul 99 |  The Company File
Power firm buys AA
09 Sep 99 |  The Company File
British Gas...Phone...Electricity..AA
30 Nov 99 |  Business
National Grid profits jump

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