British Gas owner Centrica says it expects to hit its financial targets despite a “challenging” trading environment.

In a trading update ahead of the release of its interim results on July 30, Centrica said its operational performance in the first four months of 2019 had “been largely in line” expectations.

However, external factors including a one-off £70 million hit following Ofgem’s introduction to a rise in energy caps, warmer than normal weather and falling UK natural gas prices were making the trading environment challenging, it said.

Outage extensions at two of the nuclear power stations is has a significant share in, Dungeness B in Kent and Hunterston B in Scotland, to allow for maintenance and inspection work to be undertaken, were also having an impact.

Centrica – which has a significant presence in Barrow – has been bracing itself for a hit in profits due to these pressures but said that an acceleration in cost efficiency and a “continued focus on capital discipline” meant it expected to meet targets for adjusted operating cash flow, net debt, capital investment and efficiency.

Chief executive of Centrica Group, Iain Conn, said: “We continue to focus on those things we can control and as a result we expect to achieve our 2019 cash flow and net debt targets, while we are making further progress on cost efficiency delivery and on demonstrating margin capture capability. We intend to provide a strategic update regarding our portfolio and prospects at the time of our Interim Results in July.”

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, the company said it would have greater clarity on the “commodity price environment”, the UK energy supply dynamic under the new tariff cap arrangements, and also its planned disposal of its interest in nuclear.

As previously reported by in-Cumbria, Centrica is looking to divest from its share in the eight nuclear UK power stations operated by EDF Energy. It is understood to have held discussions with China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) over a potential deal.

CGN is already working with EDF Energy to deliver the under-construction Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset and planned Bradwell B power station in Essex.

It has also been linked with a move to revive the £15 billion Moorside nuclear power station in Cumbria.

Centrica recently received “stable outlook” ratings by two major credit rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s

In Cumbria, Centrica operates gas terminals situated between Roose and Rampside near Barrow and has operations in Morecambe Bay.

It also operates a 49-megawatt battery storage facility, built on the site of the former gas-fired Roosecote power station in Rampside Road, which is able to come online in less than a second to meet fluctuations in demand and is able to hold enough power to provide energy for around 50,000 homes.