(Adds Southern outlook in paragraph 7, CFO quote in 8; updates
* Southern, Exelon, NextEra top market forecast
* Exelon's industrial demand remains weak
* Southern sees Southeast economic strength
* Southern Q3 EPS forecast slightly lags mkt view
* Exelon, Southern shares rise; NextEra down
By Matt Daily and Krishna N Das
NEW YORK/BANGALORE, July 27 Three top U.S. power
companies posted higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on
Wednesday, but drew a mixed picture of the nation's economic
outlook and demand for electricity.
Exelon Corp , which operates the largest U.S. fleet
of nuclear power plants, raised its full-year profit forecast
based on results in the first half, when it relied on strong
residential and small-business demand to offset weak electricity
usage from industrial customers.
NextEra Energy , the largest U.S. renewable energy
producer, said its earnings benefited from greater demand at its
Florida Power & Light utility and stronger output from its wind
farms, but warned of uncertainty ahead.
"The economic recovery in Florida appears to continue to
take hold, but the progress is slow and uneven," Chief Financial
Officer Armando Pimentel Jr. told a conference call.
Still, Southern Co , which is trying to build the
first U.S. nuclear power reactor in decades, said demand had
increased in its markets.
"The industrial sector continues to lead the economic
recovery in the Southeast," Chief Executive Thomas Fanning said
in a release. "Our region is well-positioned for future
expansion, and we are already seeing new business development in
several parts of our service territory."
The Atlanta-based company forecast third-quarter earnings of
$1.02 a share and backed its full-year profit outlook of $2.48-
$2.56 a share. Analysts were predicting a third-quarter profit
of $1.07 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"This industrial recovery is very broad-based, with all
major segments except for the housing-related segments of stone,
clay, and glass and textiles experiencing year-over-year
growth," Chief Financial Officer Art Beattie said on a
conference call with analysts.
Southern's second-quarter profit increased 18 percent to
$603.3 million, while revenue rose 7 percent to $4.52 billion.
Exelon's quarterly profit rose 39 percent to $620 million.
The company, which is seeking regulatory approvals to buy
Constellation Energy Group , raised its full-year
forecast to between $4.05 and $4.25 per share from a prior range
of $3.90 to $4.20.
Exelon forecast no growth in 2011 overall power demand from
customers of its PECO utility in Pennsylvania and Commonwealth
Edison customers in Illinois, largely because of moribund demand
from its largest users.
NextEra's profit jumped 39 percent to $580 million, even
though extended refueling outages at its Seabrook and Point
Beach nuclear power plants cut into its earnings. Its shares
fell 1.09 percent.
Shares of Exelon were up 1 percent while those of Southern
recouped losses to turn positive.
(Writing by Matt Daily; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Gunna