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Centrica shrugs off criticism

Utility giant Centrica has forecast its full-year earnings will be above expectations, despite a new survey today ranking subsidiary British Gas lowest for customer satisfaction.Berkshire-based multinational Centrica said in its annual general meeting that it had "performed well" during the year so far, with improved profits predicted to be announced later this year.Released to coincide with the group's AGM, price comparison website uSwitch's gas customer satisfaction survey says British Gas is the worst energy supplier in the UK in terms of customer satisfaction.But Centrica reported today that the number of customers at British Gas is on the rise, with 900,000 customers â€" 65,000 a week â€" joining since prices were cut twice on February 8th."Our UK services business is on track to deliver a year of strong operating profit growth, driven by higher customer numbers and improved service levels," said chairman Roger Carr.Mr Carr went on to say that lower wholesale prices had hit upstream gas production, with output in the first four months of 2007 down 48 per cent at 642 million therms."Overall the outlook for Centrica in all markets is encouraging, although significant uncertainty remains over wholesale gas and power prices for the balance of the year and over demand levels due to unusual weather patterns," the chairman continued."However, if wholesale prices turn out in line with current forward market prices and temperatures are seasonally normal, we would expect to deliver a group operating profit above current consensus estimates, due to the significant out-performance already seen in the first half."Centrica will announce its half-year results on August 2nd.

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