March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Centrica Plc’s Direct Energy unit agreed to buy New York-based Gateway Energy Services Corp. for $90 million as the U.K.’s biggest energy supplier seeks to add customers in the U.S.
The purchase will add more than 275,000 gas and electricity customer accounts to Direct Energy, Windsor, England-based Centrica said today in a statement. This will boost the number of business and residential customers in the U.S. northeast to about 800,000, Centrica said.
Centrica said it now has the largest deregulated retail customer base in North America after expanding through acquisitions since first entering the continent a decade ago with the purchase of Direct Energy Marketing. Retailers act as middlemen in deregulated markets, buying electricity and gas from the source and selling it to homes and businesses.
The British utility plans to double profit from North America by 2014, by acquiring power plants and retail operations, Chris Weston, president of Direct Energy, said in an interview in January.
Centrica fell 0.7 pence, or 0.2 percent, to 327.8 pence as of the 4:30 p.m. close in London. The stock has risen 13 percent in the past 12 months, valuing the company at 17 billion pounds ($27.7 billion).
Other major North American energy retailers include units of Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group Inc. and Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. Chairman Gary Bondi co-founded closely held Gateway in 1997, according to its website.
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