Boosted by higher revenues from its oil and gas business, British Gas said its operating profits had increased to £1.3 billion in the first six months of the year from £262 million during the same period last year. At the same time, the firm said it would pay a dividend of 1p per share to shareholders for the first time in two years.
The company is now facing a backlash after it announced a five-fold increase in profits and plans to reinstate paying dividends to shareholders, despite millions of households facing a squeeze as energy bills soar.
Centrica’s chief executive Chris O’Shea acknowledged the UK was facing a “difficult winter” but he defended the company, saying: “The source of our profits is not rising customer energy bills. I know it’s difficult to see the words ‘dividend’ or ‘profits’ when people are suffering... but we’re paying a windfall tax of well over £600 million pounds... so a lot of this is going back into society.”
The bumper profits came as new forecasts showed gas and electricity bills for the most vulnerable households in Britain could rise to an average of £500 a month in January, stoking the cost of living crisis and increasing the pressure on the Government to act to save millions of families from energy poverty.
The warning from consultancy BFY Group came as it forecast that the UK’s energy price cap could rise to an average of £3,840 in January following the latest surge in gas prices after Russia made further cuts in gas supplies to Europe.
Meanwhile, oil giant Shell announced it had smashed its profit record for a second consecutive quarter, reporting adjusted earnings of $11.5 billion in the second three months of the year, breaking the record $9.1 billion posted in the first quarter.