Market Report: Centrica is 'the only clear winner' in the gas market


Oscar Williams-Grut
Wednesday 28 January 2015 02:31

Good news for British Gas customers – your bills might not go up for two years.

In a sweeping look at the European energy market, Credit Suisse yesterday said British Gas owner Centrica is “the only clear winner” in the gas market. The bank tipped the company to outperform rivals, saying British Gas Residential can meet its margin goals without raising prices until 2017, thanks to falling commodity prices.

Meanwhile, margins are on the rise at its division supplying energy to US businesses. Centrica is likely to take a £1.5bn hit on its oil and gas production operations, but a reduction in spending should limit risk. Credit Suisse’s endorsement sent Centrica to the top of the Footsie, 11.3p better at 282.7p.

The wider index slumped as the wheels fell off its eight day rally. Panmure Gordon’s market commentator, David Buik, said: “Some have started to wake up to the fact that Greek Tragedy is far from played out.” The FTSE 100 fell 40.79 points to 6,811.61.

AstraZeneca inched 25p higher to 4,725p amid continued rumours that it is plotting a bid for US oncology specialist Ariad. Chatter suggests that Hikma Pharmaceuticals could be a target. Mylan is mentioned as the would-be buyer, with £35 a share a potential price. Hikma climbed 35p to 2350p.

Afren has collapsed into crisis, tumbling 12.67p to 5p yesterday after admitting it is in need of cash. The troubled Middle Eastern and African oil explorer said the slump in oil prices has left it needing more cash than the business is worth to service its debt. The company has started an emergency review.

New Britain Palm Oil jumped 47.5p to 705p as the European Commission cleared its £1.07bn takeover by Malaysian conglomerate Sime Darby.

Retail investor favourite Fitbug, which makes health and fitness tracking devices, slipped 0.75p to 5.62p on Aim after losing a trademark battle in the US.

IGas, the UK’s largest shale gas operator, cheered Parliament’s decision last night to reject a temporary ban on fracking.

But IGas inched only 0.75p higher to 20.25p, having fallen over 25 per cent ahead of the vote.

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