Centrica names British Gas boss

British GasCentrica is set to appoint its US retail boss Chris Weston to the helm of British Gas.

Mr Weston, who is currently managing director of Centrica's US retail gas business Direct Energy, will replace Phil Bentley, who is standing down after six years in the top job at British Gas.

Mr Bentley - whose leaving date has not been confirmed - is widely reported to be quitting over a disagreement over the firm's strategy.

The leadership change will come amid mounting public and political anger at British Gas after it hiked energy prices for around 8.5 million households at the end of last year, while Centrica said it was on track to make profits of £1.4 billion for 2012.
Centrica said it would confirm details of Mr Weston's appointment alongside annual results on February 27, after approval by the board. It added the change at the top comes "as part of the succession planning and the strategic evolution of the company".

Mr Weston joined the Centrica board in July 2009 when he became the group's North America managing director. He was previously the managing director at British Gas' services company, which sells boiler repair and domestic insurance. He joined Centrica in 2001 following the acquisition of One Tel, where he was managing director of its European division.

Mr Bentley joined Centrica as group finance director 13 years ago before becoming British Gas managing director in 2007.

There has been mounting speculation over his departure after reports suggested he was at odds with group chief executive Sam Laidlaw, who wants British Gas to focus on new ways to promote growth in the face of creeping regulation.

But Angelos Anastasiou, analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald Research, said Mr Bentley's departure may signal that he feels "he has done as much as he can at Centrica, and is, perhaps, unlikely to be considered for the chief executive role in the foreseeable future".

Experts predict pre-tax profits at Centrica's British Gas residential arm will be around £575 million at its year end after gas consumption for the first 10 months of 2012 rose 9% because of colder than normal weather.

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