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The Sunday Times: Centrica seeks North Sea gasfields

February 24, 2008
Iain Dey

CENTRICA, the owner of British Gas, is plotting an offer worth up to $600m (£305m) for a clutch of North Sea gasfields owned by Shell and Exxon Mobil.

Sam Laidlaw, the Centrica chief executive, plans to spend at least £1 billion a year over the next few years buying gasfields to supply its customers.

In particular, the utility giant is thought to be eyeing an offer for the Nogat fields, which were put up for sale late last year.

The move is part of the group’s plans to cut its dependence on buying gas from the wholesale market, where prices have fluctuated wildly in recent months.

Centrica came under fire last week after it emerged it had made record annual profits of £1.9 billion, a month after raising customer prices by 15%.

The company has attempted to argue that the huge profits emerged after it misjudged the movement of prices in the gas market. Centrica raised its prices after anticipating that the market price for gas would be 45p a therm in the depths of winter. In the end, the price was only 25p a therm.

Npower, owned by Germany’s RWE, announced on Friday it had seen a 40% jump in profits in its UK business to £545m.

Ofgem last week announced an investigation into the gas market in response to the profits.

Shell and Exxon Mobil are divesting a string of oil and gas assets across their joint ventures in the North Sea, including interests in the Cormorant, Tern and Pelican fields.

International Power is set to join the bidding for a stake in rival power company Intergen. It is understood to have appointed Deutsche Bank to examine the purchase of a 50% stake in Intergen.

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article3422355.ece

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