Centrica puts gas meter business up for sale
Monday 09 June 1997
British Gas Trading (BGT), Centrica's main supply arm, has recently invited offers to buy or run the pre-payment meter operation through a notice in the European Commission's official journal, though the likely price of any deal is being kept commercially confidential. The business, called Quantum after the electronic smartcard meters which are progressively replacing the traditional coin-operated variety, was inherited by Centrica when the old British Gas split itself into two.
The central Quantum office is based in Newcastle and employs around 150 staff, mostly carrying out "back office" tasks, with many employed on short-term contracts. Quantum, which remains a monopoly used by rival independent suppliers as well as BGT, runs around a million pre-payment meters, though according to the Gas Consumers' Council (GCC) only about 900,000 are in use at any time. The decision to hive off the division follows the establishment earlier by BGT of a joint venture with Group 4, the security group, to offload its main household meter reading business, AccuRead.
BGT confirmed it was examining selling or outsourcing the Quantum office. A spokesman said: "BGT is looking at how this operation will run in the future, including a possibility of this service being provided outside British Gas. Investigations into a number of options are at an early stage and the tendering process is only part of that ongoing investigation."
The sale comes at a sensitive time for the industry, as the Government has instructed Ofgas, the regulatory watchdog, to review differences in charges for pre-payment customers in competition trials under way in the South of England. The GCC has been increasingly concerned at the apparent reluctance of some independents to supply pre-payment customers, given the additional costs of up to pounds 80.
Sue Slipman, director of the GCC, warned that British Gas would have to invest up to pounds 1m in improving the system before selling it off.
"If they want to sell it, they've got to spend money on it first. The issue is about how you get the investment in the system, especially if the Government stops suppliers from cherry-picking more affluent customers. It's a problem for the industry as a whole," said Ms Slipman.
The GCC's solution was to impose a levy on suppliers who had not taken on a proportion of pre-payment customers.
John Battle, the Industry Minister, warned last week that "unbundling" costs in the industry should not make the poorest customers worse off, warning of the dangers of "fuel poverty". In one case the GCC found an independent gas supplier was charging 34 per cent more to supply pre-payment meter customers than those on direct debit.
- 1 PlayStation and Xbox hacked by Lizard Squad
- 2 Christmas comes early to Hong Kong, as millions of bank notes spill out onto busy street
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public can visit police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Vagina canoe artist facing two years in jail defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
PlayStation and Xbox hacked by Lizard Squad
Antonio Martin shooting: Black teenager may have tried to ambush patrolman, says police officer's lawyer
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
Boxing Day snowfall set to push even more bargain-hunters online for sales
The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public can visit police’s grisly crime museum
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
iJobs Money & Business
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...