Britain’s Centrica eyes transformation after losses, dividend pause

Susanna Twidale and Nina Chestney
·2-min read

By Susanna Twidale and Nina Chestney

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s largest energy supplier Centrica will outline a new longer-term strategy in the second half of the year, it said after it posted a 362 million pound loss from continuing operations for 2020 and paused its dividend.

The British Gas owner has sought to reinvent itself as an energy service provider, selling upstream assets, and said its restructuring plan announced last year was on track but more work was needed.

"We will lay out our longer-term strategy in the second half of 2021," CEO Chris O’Shea said on a call with journalists.

The company booked exceptional charges of almost 1.6 billion pounds which it said were partly due to a large drop in commodity prices and lower output from nuclear plants.

Centrica said it would not propose a full-year dividend for 2020 and would "recommence dividends to shareholders when it is prudent to do so".

Shares in the company were down around 3% on Thursday morning.

In 2018, Centrica said it wanted to divest its 20% interest in the UK operating nuclear power fleet but it has struggled to sell the asset.

"We continue to consider options for a sale, however the divestment process is currently paused given operational issues on a number of the power stations," the firm said.

Restructuring plans announced last year are expected to lead to a total reduction of around 5,000 roles across the group when compared with the start of 2020, with around 1,000 expected to come from its North American business Direct Energy, which it has already sold.

Centrica said it had brought forward by five years - to 2045 - a commitment to reach net zero emissions and would lay out more details on this later in the year.

This year has seen a series of industrial actions from a portion of British Gas' services engineer staff over terms and conditions.

(Reporting By Susanna Twidale and Nina Chestney; Editing by Alex Richardson, Mark Potter and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)