CENTRICA has slashed the valuation of its UK-focused exploration and production business by around £400 million following the plunge in oil and gas prices triggered by the coronavirus, writes Mark Williamson.

The Scottish Gas owner recorded a £381m impairment charge in respect of the E&P business, which has assets in the North Sea and Morecambe Bay.

The impairment highlights the challenges posed for North Sea businesses by the plunge in commodity prices this year.

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The operating profits achieved by Centrica’s Spirit Energy oil and gas business fell by around 67% in the first half, to £33m, from £90m last time. Spirit is focused on the North Sea.

Centrica put its 69% stake in Spirit up for sale last year but paused the process in April. The company said yesterday the divestment process will restart once commodity and financial markets have settled.

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Centrica wants to focus on the supply of energy to households and consumers in the UK and Ireland.

The company announced yesterday that it has agreed to sell its US supply business for $3.6bn (£2.9bn), to NRG Energy.

Group customer numbers fell 102,000 or 0.8% in the six months to June 30, to 12.9m. Pre-tax losses fell to £264m, from £569m.