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Business & Money

Will dividends become the sole focus for investor valuations of utilities?
Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 2003

and continued customer growth in the Southeast helped boost demand for electricity, and the company also had a solid performance from its competitive generation business. The results compared with earnings of $224 million, or 32 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. "By continuing to focus on the fundamentals that have made us successful, we are off to a good start in 2003," said Allen Franklin, chairman, president, and CEO. "Our commitment is to execute our strategy to meet our financial, operational, and customer satisfaction goals for the full year." Southern Co. CFO Thomas A. Fanning said during an April 30 conference call that the company is raising its 2003 earnings guidance to $1.86 per share, up from previous guidance of $1.84 per share. The change is based on strong first-quarter earnings and assumes normal weather for the rest of the year.

Avista Earnings Rise on Energy Units: FERC Cloud Hangs Over Company

Avista Corp. reported higher first-quarter earnings on strong results from its energy and utilities divisions, improved results from its information and technology businesses, and reduced interest and operating expenses. Avista Corp. reported a profit of $15.6 million, or 32 cents a share, up from $10.5 million, or 22 cents a share, in the year-ago period. On an operating basis, the company earned 35 cents per share in the period. The company also said its still expects full-year earnings in the range of 80 cents to $1.00 per share. The average analyst estimate for 2003 earnings is 84 cents per share. Avista has been the target of a probe by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on allegations that it acted as a middleman for Enron Corp. and its Portland General Electric utility to inflate prices of wholesale electricity during the western power crisis that began in mid-2000. FERC lawyers reached an agreement last December to drop allegations against Avista, saying they found no evidence of illegal actions by the company. However, in early April, a FERC judge said he could not accept the agency's proposed settlement with Avista because of a new FERC investigative report detailing manipulation of the California power market. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

Exelon's 1st-Quarter Soars on Higher Gas Sales

Exelon Corp.'s first-quarter net income surged amid higher weather-related gas sales and year-earlier results weighed down by an accounting change. Exelon posted net income of $361 million, or $1.11 a share, up sharply from $8 million, or two cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding the impact of an accounting change, as well as other charges and gains, Exelon said it earned $397 million, or $1.22 a share, compared with $250 million, or 77 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had expected earnings of $1.06 a share, excluding items. The latest results included an accounting-related gain of $112 million, or 34 cents a share, while year-earlier results show an accounting-related charge of $230 million, or 71 cents a share. Operating revenue, meanwhile, rose 21 percent to $4.07 billion from $3.36 billion a year earlier. Exelon attributed