Centrica enters nuclear PR fray

British Gas owner Centrica will become a key player in the UK's nuclear industry after securing a 20 per cent stake in British Energy.

Centrica: owner of British Gas
Centrica: owner of British Gas

The company paid £2.3bn for a stake in the firm that France's EDF bought for £12.5bn last year. Centrica will also form an 80/20 joint venture to build four nuclear power stations in the UK. British Energy plants supply the UK with around one-sixth of its electricity needs in total. Subject to regulatory approval, the deal could be completed by the end of September.

What was the reaction?

Sam Laidlaw, Centrica's chief executive, described the deal as a ‘watershed' moment for the firm. He said it would provide a buffer against volatile commodity prices. The firm also secured the stake at a cheaper price than initial discussions suggested, a fact that was widely reported.

Who are the PR players?

Catherine May is the well-regarded group director of corporate affairs at Centrica, which is advised by Finsbury. The Prime Minister's brother Andrew Brown is director of corporate comms at Brunswick-advised EDF. James Garthwaite is British Energy's head of comms and the firm uses FD.

What happens next?

Few think there will be any real regulatory hurdles to overcome and a shareholder revolt looks unlikely. So barring any unforeseen obstacles, Centrica will be at the centre of the argument for nuclear power in the UK. It will need to help correct public misconceptions about the supposed dangers of nuclear power. But there are already signs that the tide is changing, with an increasing number of green advocates tentatively backing nuclear power.


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