* Year operating profit 1.86 bln stg (Poll 1.81 bln stg)
* Dividend up 4.9 pct to 12.8 pence
* Says 2010 outlook positive; trading in line
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LONDON, Feb 25 British utility Centrica (CNA.L) posted a 7 percent drop in profit for 2009, reflecting lower wholesale gas and power prices, but said its British Gas unit was performing strongly and it was confident about 2010.
Centrica, which owns Britain's biggest household energy supplier British Gas, reported adjusted operating profit of 1.86 billion pounds ($2.85 billion) on sales 5 percent higher at 21.96 billion pounds.
Adjusted earnings per share were flat at 21.7 pence, and the group is increasing its full-year dividend by 4.9 percent to 12.8 pence.
The company said the cold start to 2010 saw record demand for gas in the UK.
"Overall, the outlook for 2010 is positive and we are trading in line with expectations, with strong downstream performance offsetting the impact of low gas prices on our upstream businesses," the company said in a statement on Thursday.
Wholesale gas and power prices have fallen sharply in 2009, cutting gas production earnings but benefitting the company's residential energy and power generation businesses, which cut prices earlier in February.
Centrica bought North Sea gas producer Venture in August for $2 billion, which increased its UK gas and oil reserves by 50 percent and it also established a position in nuclear by buying a 20 percent stake in British Energy.
It also announced on Thursday it was buying a stake in Trinidadian gas blocks from Suncor Energy (SU.TO) for $380 million.
Analysts expected the company to produce earnings per share (EPS) of 20.7 pence and operating profit of 1.81 billion pounds on sales of 20.66 billion pounds, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Kate Holton)