Financial Briefs

AGL Resources Inc. reported a 136% increase in net income in the third quarter to $22.2 million, or 35 cents per basic share. After deducting a pre-tax $7.9 million, or 8 cents per basic share, net impact related to a gain on the sale of company property and charitable contribution to a private foundation, earnings for the quarter were 27 cents per basic share compared to Wall Street expectations of 22 cents/share. "Our third quarter results illustrate the steady contribution and maturity of our businesses," said CEO Paula G. Rosput. "We're still a distance from the finish line, but we've found our groove." Consolidated earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) for the quarter rose 83% to $55.7 million. The distribution operations segment contributed $57.5 million of EBIT for the quarter, a $12.5 million increase from third quarter of 2002. The increase was primarily due to $13.5 million net from the sale of the Caroline Street campus and the private foundation contribution. Operating margin was $1.9 million higher during the quarter as a result of increases from higher average usage per connected customer and an overall increase in the average number of connected customers to 1.815 million versus 1.799 million in 2002. The wholesale services segment, comprised primarily of Sequent Energy Management, contributed $0.9 million in EBIT for the quarter compared to $1.3 million last year, a $0.4 million decrease primarily due to a decline in operating margin, which was the result of decreased volatility and mild weather.

Enbridge Inc. reported an 18% jump in earnings for the first nine months of the year to $639.9 million, or $3.87 per share. Earnings for the quarter rose to $90.7 million, or $0.54 per share, compared with a loss of $3.9 million, or $0.03 per share, for the same period in 2002. The 2003 results include a $169.1 million gain on the transfer of assets to Enbridge Income Fund (EIF), whereas the prior year reflected a $240 million gain on the sale of the retail services business and a $76.3 million after-tax writedown of the Enbridge Midcoast Energy assets. Excluding one-time events, earnings improved significantly, which is primarily the result of higher natural gas volumes on its gas distribution system due to colder than normal weather, higher earnings from additional interests in the Alliance Pipeline and higher earnings on the Enbridge crude oil system following the Terrace expansion. "Looking forward, robust continental energy demand fundamentals and increasing energy supply from Canada will support continued growth," said CEO Patrick D. Daniel. "Enbridge is positioned to benefit from these fundamentals and has a significant inventory of new projects that are in various stages of development."

Chesapeake Energy reported massive increases in net income and production for the quarter and the first nine months of the year. Its quarterly net income soared to $1.15/share from 30 cents per share in 3Q2002 and its net income from the first nine months jumped to $1.15/share from 5 cents/share over the same period last year. During the quarter, Chesapeake produced 71 Bcfe of gas and oil compared with only 46.7 Bcfe in the third quarter of 2002 and the 67.3 Bcfe in the second quarter of 2003. Its average daily production rate for the quarter was 772 MMcfe/d, which consisted of 692 MMcf/d of gas and 13,220 b/d of oil and gas liquids.

Nicor Inc. reported a 99% drop in earnings per share for the third quarter to 1 cent/share compared to 67 cents/share in 3Q2002. The company said its earnings were negatively impacted by a change in the depreciation method on its gas distribution system. Had gas distribution depreciation been determined using the same method net income, operating income and diluted earnings per common share would have been $19.3 million, $36.2 million and $0.44/share, respectively, the company said. Although this change has contributed to significant quarter to-quarter earnings variances, it will not have any impact on the full year comparison between 2002 and 2003, Nicor said. Other major factors contributing to decreased earnings per share results include the absence of about $20 million of pretax mercury-related recoveries, higher operating costs in the company's gas distribution segment, and lower operating results in the company's other businesses. Partially offsetting these negative factors was a pretax gain from the wind-down of the company's 50% owned retail energy marketing joint venture, Nicor Energy. For the first nine months of the year, preliminary net income, operating income and diluted earnings per common share were $70.2 million, $124.4 million and $1.59, respectively, compared to net income, operating income and diluted earnings per common share for the same 2002 period of $88.8 million, $162.3 million and $2.00, respectively. Southern Union

Riding the wave of strong growth in operating income from the company's diversified energy businesses, a return to more normal weather in its gas distribution business and lower interest expense, Chicago-based Peoples Energy announced sharply higher fiscal year 2003 results compared to fiscal 2002. The company boasted 2003 net income of $103.9 million, or $2.87 per diluted share, compared with $89.1 million, or $2.51 per diluted share in the prior year. Peoples Energy's operating income totaled $209.5 million, an increase of $25.1 million over last year. For the fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, net income was $1.4 million, or $0.04 per diluted share, compared with $1.7 million, or $0.05 per diluted share in the year-ago quarter. Operating income totaled $10.2 million, a $1 million decline from the year-ago quarter. "Overall, fiscal 2003 was an excellent year for Peoples Energy. Earnings per share improved substantially over the prior year, and also exceeded the target range we announced a year ago," said Thomas M. Patrick, CEO. "In addition, our common stock dividend was increased to $2.12 per share and we further strengthened our balance sheet and liquidity. "From an operating perspective, we continued to make progress on enhancing our core gas distribution business and improving efficiency, while substantially growing our diversified energy businesses. This balanced strategy has produced 5% annual earnings growth over the past five years, a growth rate that we will strive to meet or exceed over the next five-year period."

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