- Centrica shares fall 17% at the open after it warns of British Gas customer exodus and “significant market pressure” in North America.
- Energy provider’s shares are at a fresh 14-year low and heading for biggest ever one-day fall.
LONDON – British Gas-owner Centrica’s share price collapsed on Thursday after a profit warning from the energy provider.
Centrica said in a trading update on Thursday that British Gas has lost 823,000 household energy supply customers since June. The company announced a 12.5% hike to energy prices in August.
Centrica’s business energy supply operation is also suffering, with the company warning of “significant pressure market pressure” in North America. It is booking a one-off £46 million charge in the market.
Centrica cut its earnings guidance for the year to 12.5p per share, compared to a market consensus of 15p, and shares have plummeted. The stock is down close to 16% at 8.45 a.m. GMT (3.45 a.m. ET).
Centrica is now at a new 14-year low and Neil Wilson, a senior analyst at ETX Markets, says the drop puts Centrica on track for a record one-day share price fall.
“The practice of blue-chip companies tanking on profit warnings is becoming something of a trend this year,” Wilson said in an email. “Centrica is the latest member of the club with shares plunging 17% in early trading after warning on profits. Shares are down two-thirds in the last four years.”
Russ Mould, AJ Bell’s Investment Director, points out in an email that “British Gas will become the ninth current FTSE 100 member firm to have suffered a drop of 10% or more in a single trading day this year” if it closes at current levels.
Lee Wild, head of equity strategy at Interactive Investor, said in an email: “Centrica is already in a dark place given the exodus of customers from its British Gas business, and the market did not want to hear about a further deterioration both here and in North America.
“Despite attempts to reassure that the generous dividend is safe, the risk of a cut remains very real as the government continues a crackdown on expensive energy bills.”
Business, Energy, and Industry Strategy Department said in August that the government is “ruling nothing out” in the energy market and UK Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to crackdown on energy prices.
Rival energy provider SSE is down 2.2% on Thursday morning, as investors fret that British Gas’ problems may not be limited to the company.
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