LONDON (Reuters) - Centrica , which owns Britain's biggest household energy supplier British Gas, sought to justify a 5 percent rise in full-year earnings as it grapples with poor public perception in tough economic times.
Centrica (LSE: CNA.L - news) reported earnings per share (EPS) for the year to end December up to 27.1 pence, in line with forecasts of 27.4 pence, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll of 21 analysts.
Centrica's Chief Executive Sam Laidlaw was grilled on the BBC's Today radio programme on Wednesday about why the company had put up consumer prices by 6 percent at a time of economic hardship, when many households are struggling to pay their bills.
"We recognise that it is very difficult but the important point is that if we are going to continue to keep the lights on, to keep secure supplies of gas coming to the UK, we've entered into 50 billion pounds' worth of commitments for gas for our UK suppliers.
"You cannot do that unless you remain a successful company," he said.
All of Britain's big six energy suppliers, who control the majority of the retail market, raised tariffs this winter, prompting an outcry among consumers who accused them of squeezing customers to make profits.
This prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to step into the debate about consumer bills by promising to force suppliers to put customers on their cheapest tariffs in October.
Regulator Ofgem unveiled plans last week for tougher rules to deal with the public's mistrust of energy suppliers.
Centrica, which pulled out of plans to build new nuclear power stations in Britain with partner EDF (Paris: FR0010242511 - news) last month, also confirmed the resignation of the head of British Gas, Phil Bentley.
Full-year adjusted operating profit at Centrica rose 14 percent to 2.74 billion pounds, above analyst expectations of 2.61 billion.
(Reporting by Lorraine Turner and Estelle Shirbon, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)