Southern's Earnings Inch Higher on Customer Growth

Wholesale power prices helped propel Southern Co.'s earnings up 5% in the second quarter, and company officials said the Southeast's largest utility remains on target to meet its financial and operational goals for the year. Earnings were $270 million, or 40 cents a share, at the top of the analysts' predictions for the quarter, up from $256 million, or 39 cents a share for the same period of 2000. Operations earnings from the quarter excluded Mirant, the company that completed its spin off to Southern's shareholders April 2 (see NGI, Feb. 26).

During the second quarter, Southern said customer growth remained steady, with the average number of customers served at the end of June standing at 1.7% more than the same time last year. Southern's growing competitive generation business in the Southeast contributed 5 cents per share to earnings in the quarter, compared with 4 cents a year ago. Also, the company claimed lower interest expenses from declining short-term debt and reduced interest rates.

"We produced solid results in the second quarter, even though the mild weather depressed the normal demand for electricity, especially compared with the high temperatures we had at this time last year," said CEO Allen Franklin. "Our business continues to be fundamentally strong, and we are successfully executing our strategy." Franklin said the company remains on target to meet its goals for the year.

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