Centrica’s profits hit a record high of £3.3 billion

Centrica’s profits more than tripled in 2022 from a year earlier to a record high of £3.3 billion as the energy group’s North Sea manufacturing and nuclear businesses benefited from a rise in gas and electricity prices.

The British Gas owner, who was recently embroiled in a scandal for forcibly installing expensive prepayment meters in the homes of vulnerable customers, said he will add a further £300m to a £250m share buyback program launched last year after the expand results. The share buyback program is the first since 2014.

Adjusted operating profits have more than tripled over the past year from £948m in 2021. Centrica’s energy trading arm’s profits grew twenty-fold to £1.4 billion in 2022 as it benefited from market volatility.

The findings are likely to spark further debate over whether energy companies, which have reaped record profits from high wholesale gas and electricity prices, should do more to help vulnerable households coping with high inflation.

George Dibb, head of the Center for Economic Justice at think tank IPPR, said Centrica’s profits were “scandalous” and called for a tax on share buybacks. “We all know that wholesale energy prices have skyrocketed over the past year, but that’s no reason gas utilities should see higher profits because of higher bills,” Dibb said. “Those profits, which are then transferred directly to shareholders via buybacks and dividends, are a direct transfer away from billpayers in a livelihood crisis.”

Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea insisted the company had invested more in helping its customers deal with rising energy bills than the £8 profit per customer after tax it was making from its British Gas Energy division, which supplies households with electricity and electricity gas supplied.

The company also said it paid around £1billion in taxes for 2022 after the UK government introduced a windfall tax on oil and gas producers last year. A similar levy on power generators came into effect earlier this year.

O’Shea said, “While customers may see some relief given recent price drops, it remains clear that some will continue to need assistance and we will do everything we can to support them in the year ahead.”

The company reiterated that it was “extremely disappointed” by the results of a recent investigation by the Times newspaper which found that a third-party contractor working on behalf of British Gas broke into the homes of vulnerable customers to install prepaid meters, which are more expensive than paying energy bill by direct debit.

https://www.ft.com/content/44954510-6b79-46af-8333-168cf1e305b5 Centrica’s profits hit a record high of £3.3 billion

Adam Bradshaw

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