LONDON British utility Centrica (CNA.L) reported a sharp rise in full-year profit, boosted by higher power demand during the severe winter and as it added more residential customers.
Centrica, which owns Britain's biggest household energy supplier British Gas, reported an adjusted operating profit of 2.39 billion pounds, on sales marginally higher at 22.4 billion pounds.
Analysts expected an operating profit of 2.31 billion pounds, on revenue of 21.80 billion pounds, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll.
"British Gas has had a strong year, both operationally and financially... meeting around 30 percent of the country's total gas demand," the company said in a statement on Thursday.
The number of British Gas accounts increased by 529,000, while residential energy accounts were up by 267,000 as Britain was hit by a severe winter and one of the coldest Decembers on record.
The group also increased its full-year dividend by nearly 12 percent to 14.3 pence.
On Wednesday, Centrica said it signed its first long-term contract to buy liquefied natural gas from the world's biggest LNG exporter, Qatar -- a deal worth about 2 billion pounds at current UK market prices.
Centrica shares closed at 335.1 pence on Wednesday on the London Stock Exchange, valuing the business at 17.27 billion pounds.
(Reporting by Adveith Nair; Editing by Matt Scuffham)
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