Centrica expects to beat earnings forecasts for 2020 but “remains cautious”

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Centrica PLC (LON:CAN), the owner of British Gas, said it expects full-year earnings per share to beat current market forecasts after trading proved “resilient” in the second half of the 2020.

The FTSE 250-listed energy provider said it had UK energy and services customer numbers were “broadly unchanged” over the period and while the effects of Covid-19 continued to hit its financial performance, it was not as bad as in the first half of the year.

Business electricity demand saw a 15% negative impact in the second half, compared to around 30% in the second quarter, while residential boiler installations recovered but were still roughly 15% lower year on year.

Having announced a significant restructuring plan in June, including cutting 5,000 jobs as it streamlines its number of business units, and then agreeing the sale of its US business in July, Centrica said this “remains on track”, with trading and optimisation performance “strong” and a continued focus on cash generation and expenditure.

Full year adjusted earnings per share from continuing and discontinued operations are expected to be ahead of the 4.8p per share average analyst forecast, while net debt will be down 10% year-on-year to £2.8bn, before including proceeds from the £2.7bn from the US sale that closed on January 5, 2021.

However, with the new lockdowns in the UK and Ireland, the board said it remains cautious about business energy demand, working capital outflow and bad debts, with a recent call for a strike by workers adding another potential spanner to the works.   

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