More than 560,000 individual investors in British Gas are nursing heavy losses after shares slumped to their worst one-day loss.
Shares in Centrica fell more than 15 per cent yesterday to 138p as it revealed British Gas had lost 823,000 customers since June 30.
Customers have left in droves after the firm hiked its prices and grapples with rivals.
Centrica still has lots of individual investors after 1.5m people bought shares in British Gas when it was privatised in 1986.
But they lost out massively yesterday when shares slumped 17 per cent in early trading, after Centrica’s £4.1million-a-year chief executive Iain Conn laid bare a disappointing second half of the year and warned on profits.
The firm said 650,000 of those who left did so on collective switch deals. More than 600,000 customers also deserted British Gas in the 16 months to May, taking its customer numbers to historic lows of under 14m.
In September it raised electricity prices by 12.5 per cent, adding £76 to standard tariff dual fuel bills for a typical household.
The firm’s business division has also been under pressure, particularly in the US, due to steep competition from rivals.
Yesterday, it sought to reassure investors over its prized dividend, saying it was making enough to cover it.
Analysts at RBC said the scale of customer losses was alarming. They added: ‘This statement shows a very difficult operating environment for Centrica.’
Ken Odeluga, market analyst at City Index, said: ‘Centrica has handed wary shareholders a good reason to pull the plug after a shock profit warning.’
Neil Wilson, analyst at ETX Capital, said: ‘The practice of blue-chip companies tanking on profit warnings is becoming something of a trend this year.’