Progress Energy reports stronger first-quarter profit

STAFF WRITERMay 5, 2009 

— Progress Energy beat analyst expectations for the first quarter and said it's on track to meet its financial targets for the year despite slowing electricity demand caused by the recession.

The Raleigh-based power company this morning reported ongoing earnings of 66 cents a share, beating analyst expectations by 5 cents, and besting the first quarter of a year ago by 10 cents.

Progress counteracted the effects of the recession by boosting wholesale power sales in Florida, by aggressive cost-cutting, and by recovering ongoing spending on nuclear plant development through recently enacted state laws where the company operates.

The electric utility, with 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida, continues growing in the Carolinas even as it loses customers in Florida, one of the states hardest-hit by the global recession. During the first three months of the year, Progress gained 18,000 customers in the Carolinas while losing 8,000 customers in Florida.

"In the midst of this economic slowdown, we delivered solid financial results in the first quarter by living within our means and aggressively managing our business," said Bill Johnson, chairman, president and CEO, in a prepared statement. "Strong residential sales in the Carolinas and favorable wholesale contracts were able to offset continued retail weakness in Florida and lower industrial demand."

Progress and its investors use ongoing earnings as the most reliable measure of financial performance. Ongoing earnings were $182 million January through March, compared to $148 million for the same three-month period last year.

The company released its latest financial results before the stock market opened this morning. On Monday, Progress shares rose 18 cents to $35.19.

john.murawski@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8932

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