Duke Energy earned $634 million in the first quarter of the year as
colder winter weather and higher customer rates in the Carolinas boosted
In the third quarter since its July 2012 merger with Progress Energy, Duke reported earnings of 89 cents a share compared with 66 cents a year earlier. Adjusted for merger costs and other special charges, earnings were $1.02 a share, 2 cents below Wall Street analysts' expectations and down from $1.13 a year earlier.
CEO Jim Rogers called the results "consistent with our internal plan" and in line with the company's guidance of $4.20 to $4.45 a share for 2013.
Chief financial officer Lynn Good said a growing number of customers could indicate a housing rebound across Duke's six-state territory. But Rogers added that lingering, high unemployment points to an anemic economy recovery.
Duke's regulated businesses were helped by weather that, in the Carolinas, was 41 percent colder than a year earlier. Higher rates approved in 2012 also lifted profits. Total sales in the Carolinas rose 14 percent.
The N.C. Supreme Court sent Duke Energy Carolinas' most recent rate increase, 7.2 percent granted in early 2012, back to the N.C. Utilities Commission for another look. Rogers said he expects the commission to more fully document the rate hike's impacts on customers, as the court ordered. He does not think Duke's allowed return on equity, or profit margin, of 10.5 percent to shrink.
Duke's international division fell 6 cents a share compared with a year earlier. Duke attributed the downturn to lower sales and higher costs of purchased power in Brazil.
Commercial power, or unregulated businesses, fell 3 cents a share on lower earnings from Duke's power plants in the Midwest.
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