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Power provider Entergy Corp. posted a first-quarter loss Thursday after taking an accounting loss on its Vermont Yankee nuclear generating plant and expenses from the pending spinoff of its electricity transmission business.
For the January-through-March period, New Orleans-based Entergy said it lost $151.7 million, or 86 cents per share, on revenue of $2.38 billion. In the year-ago first quarter, the company earned $248.7 million, or $1.39 per share, on revenue of $2.54 billion.
Without the special items that totaled $1.30 per share, Entergy said it would have earned 44 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast per-share earnings of $1.13 per share on revenue of $2.46 billion.
Entergy blamed the revenue reduction partially on a milder-than-normal winter, which cut electricity usage, following an extremely cold winter in the first quarter of 2011. With weather factored out, the company said, residential sales increased 2.6 percent, commercial and government sales increased 2.4 percent, while industrial sales increased 4.6 percent.
Earlier this month, Entergy advised that it would take a first-quarter loss and lowered its 2012 profit guidance to a range of $4.85 to $5.65 per share. Its previous guidance was in a range of $5.40 to $6.20 per share.
On Thursday, Entergy said the lowered guidance was due to the Vermont Yankee impairment, higher pension expenses and the mild winter.
Vermont regulators have taken action that could shut down Vermont Yankee. The 40-year-old plant has a renewed federal license, but its request for a new state certificate is pending following unsuccessful efforts by the state to shut it down.
Earlier this month, Entergy told federal regulators it will not shut down the plant in the next five years. A federal judge in January blocked Vermont's attempt to close the plant when its initial 40-year license term expired March 31.
During a conference call with investment analysts, Entergy chief executive Wayne Leonard said the accounting charge did not reflect a change in the company's opinion of the financial value of the plant, assuming it continues operating through 2032.
The additional expenses reported by Entergy are tied to its plans to spin off its electric transmission business and merge it into ITC Holdings Corp., which operates power transmission lines in the Midwest. Entergy shareholders will receive about $1.78 billion in cash, and its stockholders will receive shares of a new company created by the combination of Novi, Mich.-based ITC and the Entergy business. Entergy shareholders will have a 50.1 percent stake in the new company.
The deal is expected to close in 2013.
In Thursday trading, Entergy shares were up 32 cents at $66.08. The shares have traded in a 52-week range of $57.60 to $74.
In addition to a wholesale electricity business, Entergy has regulated electricity utilities in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas.