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Shares in Centrica dropped sharply on Thursday morning, after the owner of British Gas was forced to reassure investors that it would maintain its dividend amid heavy customer losses and pressure to cut prices.

Shares in the company were down 12.6 per cent shortly before publication time, which if held would mark the company’s worst one-day fall since shortly after it was formed in 1997.

Centrica said it had endured a “disappointing” start to the second half, losing 823,000 domestic energy customers in just four months.

The company said it may have to operate with historically low dividend cover “for a period of time” in order to maintain its payouts.

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