Energy providers Centrica, National Grid hike earnings forecast

FILE PHOTO: The sun rises behind electricity pylons near Chester

(Reuters) -Britain's National Grid and British Gas-owner Centrica on Thursday raised their earnings expectations for the year, as the power companies benefit from persistently high energy prices caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Centrica's shares jumped more than 8% after it forecast its annual adjusted earnings per share outlook to be at the top end of analysts' expectations, and announced a share buyback of up to 5% of its share capital.

National Grid, which runs Britain's energy systems and supplies power to parts of the United States, on Thursday also raised its investment target to 40 billion pounds ($45.55 billion) through 2026, after profits soared by 50% in the six months to Sept. 30 to 2.1 billion pounds.

It said it expects full-year underlying earnings per share-growth to be in the middle of its new 6%-8% compound annual growth rate forecast.

Shares in National Grid inched 0.6% higher.

National Grid's investment, 21 billion pounds of which would be deployed into U.S. gas and electric networks, was raised from an earlier target of 30-35 billion pounds as part of its five-year plan.

Along with others in the sector, National Grid has warned of supply tightness following the disruption of Russian gas supplies to Europe and on Thursday said the coming winter would be challenging for energy supply.

For consumers, the knock-on effects on retail bills of the surge in wholesale gas and power prices risks plunging millions into fuel poverty.

British Gas owner Centrica on Thursday said it would invest another 25 million pounds into its energy support fund to give relief to consumers. National Grid launched a 50 million pound energy support fund in early November.

($1 = 0.8781 pounds)

(Reporting by Muhammed Husain in Bengaluru and Sinchita Mitra; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Barbara Lewis)