Duke Energy Corp. (DUK:US), the largest U.S. utility owner, said first-quarter profit rose as cooler temperatures than a year earlier boosted demand for power.
Net income increased to $634 million million, or 89 cents a share, from $295 million, or 66 cents, a year earlier, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke said in a statement today on PR Newswire. Excluding one-time items, per-share profit was $1.02, one cent less than the average of 13 analysts’ estimates (DUK:US) compiled by Bloomberg.
Duke, which bought Progress Energy July 1, sells power to about 7.2 million customers in North Carolina, Florida and four other states. It expects electricity use to rise less than 1 percent this year excluding the effect of weather, Chief Financial Officer Lynn Good said in February.
“Any load growth in Duke’s case would be helpful and not anticipated,” Andrew B. Smith, a St. Louis-based analyst for Edward Jones who rates Duke a hold and doesn’t own the shares, said in a telephone interview before the results were announced. “Expense creep would not be helpful.”
Demand for heating more than quadrupled from a year earlier for Duke’s 3.1 million customers in North Carolina as the average temperature fell 12 percent to 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius), according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Duke’s board is seeking a replacement for Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Rogers who agreed to step down by year-end as part of a settlement ending state investigations of the Progress takeover. Duke’s board reinstated Rogers hours after the deal closed, ousting former Progress CEO Bill Johnson, who had been promised the top job at the combined company.
“CEO succession is top-of-mind for a lot of investors,” Andrew L. Smith, a Houston-based analyst for Drexel Hamilton LLC who rates Duke a hold and doesn’t own the shares, said in an interview. “I’d expect some discussion on the earnings call of how timing of that will play out.”
The results were announced before regular trading began on U.S. markets. Duke fell 0.2 percent to $74.78 yesterday in New York. The shares have seven buy, 16 hold and one sell rating (DUK:US) from analysts.
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