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Business & Money

Can economies of scale make the industry more stable?
Fortnightly Magazine - March 2004

William Cavanaugh.

Banc of America Securities Downgrades Xcel Energy

Banc of America Securities analyst Shelby Tucker lowered his investment opinion of Xcel Energy to "neutral" from "buy." The analyst wrote in a research report, " Now that most of our expected catalysts have taken place, we see little that will drive valuation beyond a traditional utility. The only remaining catalyst is a potential dividend increase in June 2004. We forecast that the dividend will increase to 80 cents from 75 cents."

Entergy Loses 17 Cents Per Share in Fourth Quarter

Entergy reported full-year 2003 as-reported earnings of $926.9 million, or $4.01 per share, compared with $599.4 million, or $2.64 per share, in 2002. For the fourth quarter, reported losses were $39.5 million, or 17 cents per share, compared with earnings of $75.8 million, or 33 cents per share, for the fourth quarter of 2002. The Thomson First Call mean estimates for the full year and fourth quarter were $4.22 and 37 cents, respectively. In the fourth quarter, higher-than-expected participation in a voluntary severance program resulted in special one-time charges. CEO J. Wayne Leonard said 1,100 employees participated.

Avista Files Rate Increase in Idaho

Avista Corp said it filed to increase electric rates in Idaho by 11 percent and natural gas rates by 9.2 percent. The rate increase would raise annual power revenues by $18.9 million and gas revenues by $4.8 million. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission usually has seven months to review rate case filings. Avista said its current rates are based on 1997 operating costs on the electric side and 1987 costs on the gas side. Under the company's proposal, average monthly power bills would increase about $8.22 per month, and gas bills would increase by about $5.58 per month.

Enron Bankruptcy Judge Approves Sale Of Portland General

Enron Corp.'s bankruptcy judge will allow the company to sell Portland General Electric to an investment group headed by the former governor of Oregon, according to an Associated Press report. The utility will be sold for $1.25 billion in cash and the assumption of $1.1 billion in debt. The deal is subject to approval by state and federal regulators. The investment group is headed by former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt. Texas Pacific Group will finance the purchase; the group's investors include banks and pension funds. A spokesman for the investment group told the wire service that the firm hopes to close the PGE deal before the end of the year, pending regulatory approval. The city of Portland, along with consumers, had considered turning the utility into a municipal utility, but voters rejected a ballot initiative.


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