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Centrica Says U.K. Domestic Gas Demand Rose on Cold Weather

Centrica Plc (CNA), the U.K.’s largest household energy supplier, said domestic gas demand climbed 9 percent in the first 10 months of the year due to colder weather while power consumption fell.

“This reflects colder than normal weather in the year to date following an unusually warm 2011, but also underlying reductions in demand due to energy efficiency measures undertaken by customers,” the company said.

Full-year earnings will be in line with market expectations, the Windsor, England-based utility said today in a statement.

The owner of British Gas is forecast to report adjusted profit of 1.39 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) this year, according to the median estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. That would be 5 percent higher than in 2011.

Centrica said market conditions for operating gas-fired power plants remain challenging because of low wholesale power prices relative to fuel costs. The British Gas division lost 43,000 business customers since the end of June due to the weak economy, according to Centrica.

Centrica’s British Gas will increase household gas and power charges by an average of 6 percent tomorrow, adding 1.50 pounds a week to bills. SSE Plc, which yesterday said first-half profit climbed 38 percent, along with RWE Npower Plc and EDF Energy Plc also increased prices, bringing them under fire from consumer groups and Prime Minister David Cameron’s government.

Huge Profits

“People will not understand how the energy giants can get away with inflation-busting price rises this winter when they are already making huge profits,” Caroline Flint, spokeswoman on energy for the opposition Labour Party, said today in a statement. Centrica supplies 15.8 million U.K. households.

Centrica, like SSE yesterday, said it faces higher costs from implementing government measures to reduce emissions and from upgrades to gas and electricity grids.

“These costs, which are out of our control, have added around 50 pounds to the cost of supplying the average household,” the company said.

Centrica also said it was on track for “double digit profit growth” in its U.K. residential services business. Centrica’s nuclear output rose 5.3 percent from a year earlier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sally Bakewell in London at sbakewell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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