Charlotte, NC-based Piedmont Natural Gas narrowed its loss this year during the slow summer quarter, reporting a seasonal loss of $8.2 million and ($0.21) diluted loss per share for the fiscal quarter ending July 31, 2004, compared with a $9.7 million loss and a ($0.29) diluted loss per share for the same quarter in 2003 . The company on Friday also announced a two-for-one stock split.

For the nine months ended July 31, 2004, Piedmont’s net income was $107.7 million and diluted earnings per share were $2.92, compared with $79.3 million and $2.37 for the prior nine-month period, respectively.

System throughput in the third quarter totaled 35.8 million dth, compared with throughput of 17.6 million dth for the previous year’s quarter primarily due to the acquisition of North Carolina Natural Gas (NCNG) on Sept. 30, 2003, and continued customer growth. The NCNG customer base includes relatively higher gas deliveries to lower margin industrial and power generation customers than the historical Piedmont base.

Margin for the quarter totaled $69.7 million compared with $49.3 million for the prior-year quarter. Piedmont attributed the margin increase primarily to the NCNG acquisition, rate increases for the NCNG and Nashville Gas divisions that became effective Nov. 1, 2003, and customer growth. Operations and maintenance expenses increased from the prior-year quarter primarily due to the acquisition of NCNG.

The Piedmont Natural Gas Board of Directors Friday declared a 2-for-1 stock split of the Company’s common stock, subject to regulatory approval by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The stock split will be in the form of a 100% stock dividend to shareholders of record at the close of business on Oct. 11, with shares distributed beginning Oct. 29. Upon completion of the split, the company will have approximately 77 million shares outstanding.

Piedmont Natural Gas reaffirmed its fiscal year 2004 earnings guidance for earnings from continuing operations in the range of $2.35 to $2.45 per diluted share and set earning guidance for 2005 at $2.45 to $2.60 per share, both on a pre-split basis.

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