Phil Bentley expected to leave post as owner Centrica announces outcome of strategic review
British Gas is set to lose its boss as the energy provider’s parent, Centrica, prepares to announce the outcome of a strategic review.
Phil Bentley is expected to step down as managing director of British Gas over the next few months and an announcement could come as soon as Centrica’s preliminary results at the end of February. At the same time the energy group will also announce the outcome of a three-yearly strategic review, encompassing its three main divisions of British Gas, an oil and gas production business that includes a significant North Sea presence and a US operation. Bentley, 53, joined Centrica as finance director in 2000 and was handed his British Gas role in 2007. Centrica declined to comment on Bentley’s imminent departure but he is believed to harbour ambitions to become a company chief executive in his own right.
British Gas is a lightning rod for criticism over rising household bills as the provider of energy to 15.8 million customers. In November it implemented a 6% increase in household bills, a rise that it blamed on the cost of upgrading the UK’s gas and electricity grids, rising wholesale gas costs and levies imposed on energy companies to pay for low-carbon alternatives. Nonetheless Centrica is expected to announce after-tax profits of £1.4bn in next month, with British Gas forecast to produce a profit of £575m.
Centrica’s chief executive, Sam Laidlaw, also faces questions over the group’s involvement in the new nuclear power station planned for Hinkley Point in Somerset. It is a junior partner in the project with France’s EDF and a decision on whether to proceed with the £14bn project has already missed its year-end deadline. The decision is heavily dependent on how much financial support the government provides, through underwriting a minimum price for nuclear-powered energy.