Southern Co profit rises, weak economy hits energy sales

Mon Nov 5, 2012 8:08am EST

Nov 5 (Reuters) - Southern Co, the No.2 U.S. power company by market value, reported a 6 percent rise in quarterly profit as reductions in non-fuel operations and maintenance expenses offset lower sales arising from mild weather and an uncertain economy.

"After a promising first six months of 2012, the economy has slowed due to uncertainty around the elections, the fiscal cliff and the slowing world economy," Chief Executive Thomas Fanning said in a statement.

Total energy sales to the company's customers in the Southeast, including wholesale sales, fell 4.9 percent in the third quarter.

"We continue to believe that the long-term prospects for the Southeast remain strong relative to other portions of the country," Fanning said, adding that the near-term outlook for the national economy was unclear.

As power demand tends to reflect growth in a region, comments on the economy by Southern Co and bigger rival Duke Energy Corp are keenly followed by investors.

Southern Co, which supplies power in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi, has been immune to the devastation caused by superstorm Sandy, which has caused power outages along the U.S. East Coast.

Earnings rose to $976 million, or $1.11 per share, in the third-quarter, from $916 million, or $1.07 per share, a year earlier.

Operating revenues fell 7 percent to $5.05 billion.

Shares of Southern Co, valued at about $40 billion, closed at $45.77 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.