Iain Conn could not have had a worse year. First came Theresa May’s threatened price cap on energy bills. Then Labour’s promise to renationalise the power industry. Followed by a price rise that sent customers scrabbling to find new suppliers. Last Thursday the chief executive of British Gas owner Centrica stunned the market with another hammer blow. Problems in its north American business and a warmer-than-expected autumn would drive earnings per share about 20% below market expectations. On top of that, he revealed that Centrica had lost 1.2m UK customers so far this year to leave it with 13.1m accounts. Centrica’s 20% stake in Britain’s fleet of nuclear power stations, held alongside France’s EDF, could be sold. “It’s not necessary to do anything with it to balance our books,” insisted Conn. “If someone came along and said, ‘We are really interested in it,’ we would consider it.” Instead, Conn wants to embed Centrica in the home, by selling extra services on top of power supply. He hopes kit such as its Hive smart meter — which lets users control heating and lighting remotely via an app — and boiler breakdown packages will eventually boost the profits it makes from consumers. “Our strategy is to give customers what they want and increase the amount of things that we sell that are not energy,” said Conn. “We are not going to be a dinosaur. We are one of the early manifestations of a new breed of energy and services company.” He is adamant his strategy is unaffected by the profit warning.
Times 26th Nov 2017 read more »