(Adds detail, background, analyst comment, share price)
LONDON Jan 7 Centrica finance director
Nick Luff will quit this year to join information group Reed
Elsevier, leaving Britain's biggest household energy
supplier in the midst of a political row over rising bills.
Soaring energy costs have become a big political issue in
Britain, leading to intense scrutiny of utility companies like
Centrica, after Ed Miliband, the leader of Britain's main
opposition party, promised to temporarily freeze bills if he
Centrica said on Tuesday the search for a new finance chief
was underway, adding that Luff would leave some time before Dec.
31, 2014, but the date was yet to be confirmed.
At Reed, Luff, who prior to Centrica worked at
shipping group P&O, will be chief financial officer, replacing
Duncan Palmer, who said he would leave the Anglo-Dutch media
group due to family circumstances this September.
Luff, Centrica's group finance director since 2007, is part
of a team credited with improving the British Gas-owner's cost
base and competitiveness and expanding into the U.S. market.
Shares in Centrica, which have dropped 14 percent since
September when Miliband announced his plan to freeze bills, were
down 0.8 percent at 339.70 pence in morning trading,
underperforming the benchmark FTSE-100 index.
"Nick Luff is widely regarded as one of the best CFOs in the
European utility sector. We see Luff's departure as a slight
negative for Centrica," Royal Bank of Canada analyst John Musk
Sam Laidlaw, Centrica's chief executive since 2006, said
Luff had made a "significant and lasting contribution" to the
Luff's departure from Centrica follows that of the chairman
Roger Carr. He stepped down at the end of last year and was
replaced by the former head of Network Rail, Rick
(Reporting by Kate Holton and Sarah Young; Editing by Mark