Centrica, the owner of British Gas, has come under fire from fuel poverty campaigners before announcing profits of almost £3bn this week.
The energy group is expected to announce broadly flat group operating profits of £2.8bn for 2013, with the British Gas “UK downstream” business contributing £1.05bn, down 4% from 2012, City analysts say.
“A slight drop in already astronomical profits will provide little succour to the millions struggling with high bills, cold homes and unwanted prepayment meters precisely because of the profiteering of this company,” said a spokeswoman for the Fuel Poverty Action group.
“Although Centrica care little for their customers freezing to death in their homes they have shown commitment to their shareholders, by recently handing back £420m to them, and a commitment to fracking in Lancashire, despite community objections, in their insatiable lust for profit,” she added. Centrica, which has by far the largest market share of the UK gas and electricity supply market, has traditionally been a lightning rod for critics of the wider big six power providers.
A spokesman for the group insisted it was working hard to help tackle fuel poverty. “Last year we assisted nearly 2 million vulnerable households with discounts and free insulation. This winter more than half a million British Gas customers received the Warm Home Discount, worth £135. In addition, many of them also received a new top-up discount worth £60,” said a spokesman.
Centrica’s profit margin averages about 5% after tax across the group, he added: “We use this to make the big investments and commitments which secure vital energy supplies for British homes.”