Germans and French in London power struggle

A power struggle is looming between the German-owned Innogy and the French-controlled London Electricity to win more energy customers in the capital.

Innogy, now part of the German utility RWE, is preparing to launch a campaign this summer through its retail arm npower to wrest customers away from LE, which is owned by the state-run Electricité de France.

RWE also owns Thames Water, which supplies 13 million customers in London and the South-east. However, only 500,000 of these buy gas or electricity from npower, which has a total of 6.5 million customers.

Brian Count, the chief executive of Innogy, believes there is huge scope to cross-sell gas, electricity and even telephone services to Thames Water's huge customer base, the biggest of any UK water company. The aim eventually is for customers of Thames and npower to receive a single combined bill for all their water and energy consumption.

LE Group, which has 5.2 million retail customers in the UK across its four brands, is intent on hitting back, however, and is drawing up plans to introduce a single, nationwide energy brand itself. Currently its four brands are London Electricity, Seeboard, Virgin Energy and Sweb. It has ruled out the idea of branding itself EdF which, though a national institution in France, is virtually unknown in the British market.

Innogy claims to be the biggest electricity provider in the UK following its acquisition of Northern, Yorkshire and Midlands Electricity which brought it 5.7 million customers. The other big suppliers are Centrica, the owner of British Gas, with 13 million gas and electricity customers, and Eon, also of Germany which owns both East Midlands Electricity and TXU, which was formerly known as Eastern Electricity.

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