(Attributes quotes on plant closure and his future to CEO Jim Rogers)
* Earns $0.70/share ex items vs $0.64 expected
* Merger savings boost results: CEO
* Shares up 0.4 pct in morning trade
By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
Feb 13 (Reuters) - Duke Energy Corp reported its second consecutive quarterly rise in profit on Wednesday following its acquisition of rival Progress Energy last summer.
"We're in very strong position and have started to harvest the savings that came about from the merger," CEO Jim Rogers told Reuters.
The largest power company in the United States said net income for the fourth quarter was $586 million, or 62 cents per share, compared with $333 million, or 65 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding special items, Duke earned 70 cents per share, beating the analysts' average estimate of 64 cents.
In early February, the company retired Crystal River, a damaged nuclear power plant in Florida, because of rising repair costs. [ID: nL1N0B635L]
"It was a difficult decision. We spent a significant amount of time doing detailed technical and economic feasibility studies. Based on those studies we believe the decision is in the best interest of our customers and co-owners," said Rogers.
Rogers said the company had no definite plans yet to replace the plant, but that it would favor a gas-fired combined plant over other options.
The company also recently settled with North Carolina regulators over a probe concerning the sudden resignation of Progress Chief Executive Bill Johnson in the hours after the $18 billion Progress Energy deal closed in June. As part of the settlement, Duke CEO Rogers will step down by the end of the year.
Rogers said that he hoped to keep working in the energy industry after he left Duke - only this time, with a humanitarian focus.
"I want to bring electricity to the 1.3 billion people who have no access to electricity in the world," Rogers said. "As CEO of an energy company, might be a perfect mission for me."
The company said it would provide a business outlook for 2013 at an analyst meeting on February 28.
Duke shares were up 0.4 pct at $69.01 in early morning trading. (Reporting by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Nick Zieminski and Bob Burgdorfer)