[UNITED KINGDOM] The British Gas Group, unveils 70 per 100 profit rise

Oil and Gas explorer British Gas Group (BG Group) became the latest beneficiary of soaring prices today after unveiling first-quarter profits of £1.4bn.

The 70% hike was mainly due to "higher commodity prices" and increased production levels in a "excellent start" to 2008, the company said. The results come a day after oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and BP posted combined profits of £7.2bn for first three months of the year, angering motorists.

The glut of profits has been fuelled by a record run for oil prices peaking at almost $120 a barrel this week. This has been driven by supply concerns following attacks on pipelines in Nigeria, as well as traders looking to buy oil to hedge against a weakening dollar as the US economy struggles.

But the huge earnings will strike a raw nerve with households hit by price hikes from the UK's "big six" energy firms, who racked up bills within a few weeks of each other earlier this year. The move prompted the Office of Fair Trading to launch an investigation in February. BG's exploration and production division saw profits rise 50% to £942m on the surging oil prices, aided by higher production from the UK's Buzzard field and its interests in India.

UNITED KINGDOM: The British Gas Group, unveils 70 per 100 profit riseThe group's liquefied natural gas (LNG) businesses were meanwhile bolstered by rising international gas prices which helped treble earnings to £383m.

Chief executive Frank Chapman said: "BG Group has made an excellent start to the year driven by increased production volumes, higher commodity prices and strong first-quarter performance in LNG."

BG also has a 30% stake in the the consortium buoyed by the recent discovery of what could be the world third's biggest oil field off the coast of Brasil. Shares in the firm soared earlier this month after the head of Brazil's national oil agency said El Carioca field in the Santos Basin could hold reserves of around 33bn barrels of oil.

Source: The Press Association

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