* Expects 2014 adjusted EPS of $4.45-$4.60 vs est $4.32
* 4th-quarter EPS 97 cents vs 62 cents last year
By Garima Goel
Feb 18 Duke Energy Corp, the largest
U.S. power company, forecast full-year earnings above analysts'
estimates as it gets the full benefit of recent rate increases.
Regulators in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida
approved the company's request to raise utility rates from
September and October.
"Our rate increases are all in effect, so (in) 2014 we will
be experiencing a full year of these rate increases..." Chief
Executive Lynn Good said in an interview.
The rate increases also helped the company report a
better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit.
Duke, which forecast annual earnings growth of between 4
percent and 6 percent through 2016, said it expected adjusted
earnings of $4.45-$4.60 per share for the year.
Analysts on average were expecting earnings of $4.32 per
share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Earnings rose to 97 cents per share in the fourth quarter
ended Dec. 31, from 62 cents per share a year earlier.
The quarter was also helped by cost savings, including those
from Duke's $18 billion buyout of rival Progress Energy in July
2012, which created the largest U.S. power company.
Excluding one-time items, Duke earned $1 in the quarter,
above analysts' estimates of 95 cents.
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke has a capacity to
generate 57,700 megawatts and supplies to 7.2 million customers
in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky
and Ohio, according to its website.
TEPID SALES GROWTH
Duke sales would grow only about 0.5 to 1 percent over the
next two years as a slow-growing U.S. economy and improved
energy efficiency weigh on power demand, CEO Good said.
Sales grew by 0.6 percent in 2013, she said.
"We have consistently grown from the economic downturn in
2008-2009 but...following recession in the U.S, the snap back
for growth has been less."
Wholesale power prices have been low due to weak industrial
demand and use of cheap natural gas to generate electricity.
Duke said on Monday that it is looking to sell its Midwest
commercial generation business, including stakes in 13 merchant
power plants, which sell electricity on the wholesale market.
The decision to sell the business comes after Ohio
regulators rejected Duke's request for a $729 million rate
increase last week.
The commercial power generation business reported a loss in
the fourth quarter but Duke said the loss did not "substantially
Duke shares were up 1.3 percent at $72.37 in early trading
on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.