British Gas lays out £5m for loft lagger

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The Independent Online

A Stockport family pocketed £6.3m yesterday after selling its home insulation business to the power company Centrica.

Hillserve Insulation Specialists was established 25 years ago by Harry Hearsum and is currently managed by his daughter, Julie Hadfield. Centrica's British Gas retail arm is paying £5m for the company, plus an adjustment for net cash within the business of around £1.3m.

British Gas was keen to buy the business as part of its strategy to take a bigger share of the growing home insulation market. Hillserve employs 159 people at offices in Bredbury, Stoke, Warrington and Gwynedd. It carried out 40,000 insulations last year, compared with the 270,000 carried out by British Gas. Home insulation is a major growth market, boosted by rising energy prices, green consciousness and grants that the government introduced in 2008 alongside a pledge to insulate six million homes by 2011.

Spending in the sector is expected to balloon from £600m to £1.4bn by 2015, and British Gas has aspirations to become the market leader. The Hillserve acquisition builds on the group's recent creation of a national in-house insulation business, the company said yesterday. It has opened a depot in Reading and has an eye on both organic and acquisitive growth.

Under the government grant system introduced in 2008, anyone over 70 or claiming benefits is eligible for free loft lagging and cavity wall insulation. Everyone else can claim discounts of up to 50 per cent, depending on their circumstances.

Last month, the government launched a green loans scheme designed to defray the high up-front costs of energy efficiency technology. And a feed-in tariff scheme to encourage small-scale, green electricity generation kicked off at the start of April.