British Gas 'shields customers from high gas prices'

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Centrica has announced that profits at its British Gas residential arm were lower than last year's because the company had shielded its customers from the full increase in the cost of wholesale gas.

The company claimed that after taking into account the cost of wholesale gas, British Gas profits had dropped by more than a third to just £379 million last year.

Sam Laidlaw, Centrica chief executive, said: "The outlook for the global economy remains very challenging and in the UK 2009 could be particularly difficult for many of our customers, both residential and commercial."

In Centrica's performance review statement, the company's chairman said that sharp rises in global energy prices were the driving force behind the two retail price increases for UK customers.

The company claimed that it has shielded customers from further increases by reducing its operating costs through a range of energy efficiency improvements and by providing support to vulnerable customers.

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