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UPDATE 1-Britain's National Grid sees profit slide as pandemic pushes costs higher

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Nov 12 (Reuters) - National Grid Plc on Thursday posted a 12% slide in half-year underlying profit as coronavirus curbs increased costs and significantly lowered industrial and commercial power usage, and worsened bad debts in its U.S. business.

The company maintained expectations of a 400 million pound hit this year from the pandemic.

Demand for energy on the electricity system dropped by as much as 18% earlier this year due to virus-led restrictions but has since started to recover to normal levels.

National Grid’s statutory operating profit, however, rose 13% to 1.14 billion, due to an exceptional 15 million pound gain from the release of environmental provisions.

The company, which operates a gas franchise in New York City and Long Island and runs Britain’s energy system, said underlying operating profit fell to 1.15 billion pounds ($1.52 billion) for the six months ended Sept. 30, from 1.30 billion pounds a year earlier.

National Grid, responsible for balancing supply and demand in Britain’s energy systems, said it continues to expect asset growth towards the top end of its target range of 5%-7% in the near term. ($1 = 0.7579 pounds) (Reporting by Shanima A in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)