Centrica buys heating company

the founder of a central heating firm that started life almost 50 years ago has sold the business to British Gas owner Centrica in a £30m deal.

Family-owned PH Jones, based in Malpas, Cheshire, was set up by Phil Jones as a sole trader in 1963 and now has 850 staff working from 25 regional offices.

Jones's social housing division services and repairs central heating for around 250,000 properties and carries out more than 8,000 central heating installations every year.

Centrica said the deal will increase its exposure to the social housing market, in particular as it focuses on installing renewable energy systems such as solar panels and increasing the fuel efficiency of homes.

Social housing represents 20 per cent of the UK's housing stock, or about five million homes, and the sector is expected to spend about £3.5bn a year on energy services next year.

Betsy Bassis, managing director of British Gas Community Energy, said: "Social housing is a strategically important market for British Gas. It is also an early adopter of energy-efficiency and renewable technologies. The acquisition of PH Jones significantly accelerates our growth strategy in social housing."

The deal does not include a division that installs meters, which has been retained by the family.