Cold snap boosts British Gas profit
Profits at British Gas are set to rise after the energy supplier revealed a boost in consumption following a colder than normal start to the year.
Owner Centrica added that British Gas had stemmed the flow of customers leaving the business, with the number of accounts on its books staying at 14.8 million following a 5% cut in gas tariffs from the end of February.
The FTSE 100 company reported improved profitability in its supply business in the first quarter of the year but said this was more than offset by lower commodity prices in its upstream production arm.
It also announced that it had set aside an additional £50 million over the next three years to improve customer service.
Recruitment for the first 350 new jobs will begin next month, with vacancies in Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
As well as a drive to reduce call waiting times, t here will be extra training for British Gas's customer service employees, who number more than 5,000.
In 2014, British Gas operating profits fell 23% to £439 million amid a half-million fall in customer accounts and a £100 decline in average bills as gas consumption dropped by a fifth amid warmer weather.
The wider group saw adjusted operating profits fall 35% to £1.75 billion as it was also hit by extreme weather patterns in its North America business and plunging oil and gas prices hit its power generation.
Centrica highlights a number of factors that could influence its performance this year, such as commodity prices, the weather, the outcome of the General Election and the Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the UK energy market which is due to deliver provisional findings in the summer.
Residential gas consumption was 10% higher than a year earlier, with electricity demand 2% higher in the first three months of 2015.
The trading update covering the first quarter of this year was issued ahead of the company's annual meeting in London.