UPDATE 1-Centrica to use cold snap profit to freeze energy bills

Mon May 13, 2013 3:00am EDT

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LONDON May 13 (Reuters) - Britain's largest gas supplier, Centrica, said it will use the profit it made from high gas demand during a cold snap to keep energy tariffs at current levels, forecasting earnings for the year in line with expectations.

The owner of British Gas said residential gas consumption was 18 percent higher over the first four months of 2013 than in the same period last year, while electricity demand rose 3 percent, due to exceptionally cold weather.

Britain largely depends on gas to heat its homes and energy companies are often accused by the public of making excessive profit from supplying energy to cash-strapped households.

"Any benefit arising from the exceptionally cold weather will be used to maintain our price competitiveness," Centrica said in an interim management statement, promising to hold prices at current levels for as long as possible.

Britons felt the impact of higher energy prices over the winter after all major energy suppliers increased tariffs between October and January.

Centrica raised its gas and electricity prices by 6 percent on Nov. 16.

The company forecast its full-year earnings to be in line with market expectations.

Production from its international upstream oil and gas business is expected to rise 12 percent this year to around 75 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe).

Centrica produced gas from its York and Rhyl projects in the East Irish and North Sea during the first quarter, and wells at Kew, Grove, Valemon and Cygnus are forecast to bring an additional 86 mmboe on stream over the next three years, the company said on Monday.

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