UPDATE 1-Duke Energy says uncertain rate cases weigh on 2013 forecast

Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:10pm EST

By Ernest Scheyder

Feb 28 (Reuters) - Duke Energy Corp, the largest utility in the United States, said several pending electricity rate cases could wildly affect results this year and forecast 2013 earnings in a range with a midpoint below Wall Street's expectations.

The company said Thursday it expects 2013 earnings of $4.20 per share to $4.45 per share.

Analysts expect 2013 earnings of $4.34 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Chief Executive Jim Rogers said the wide estimate range reflects several rate cases the company is pursuing with state utility commissions, the outcomes of which remain uncertain.

"We've got a lot of items that have to work through the regulatory process," Rogers said in an interview. "Earnings growth doesn't go linear. We've just got more moving parts this year."

The company is seeking a 9.7 percent rate increase in North Carolina and a 5.1 percent rate increase in Ohio. Both increases are controversial within the states.

Rogers, who is set to step down at the end of 2013, said Duke Energy will continue to grow its dividend, and should be able to boost earnings by 4 percent to 6 percent by 2015.

Rogers has been a CEO at various companies for 25 years. He declined to comment on who could replace him to run Duke, which provides electricity for more than 20 million customers.

Last year Duke bought Progress Energy for $18 billion, a deal that made it the largest power provider in the U.S.

The companies had maintained that Progress' CEO William Johnson would take the top role in the new company throughout that regulatory review process, though once the deal was consummated, Rogers was named CEO.

The moved caused deep cultural rifts inside the newly combined Duke, and Rogers said he has worked since to unify the company.

"My goal is to leave Duke in a strong position for the new CEO," he said.

Shares of Duke Energy fell 1.1 percent on Thursday to $69.37.

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