Riding strong utility results, Minneapolis, MN-based Xcel Energy Thursday reported increased earnings for the first quarter compared to the same period last year. Operating revenues jumped nearly $500 million to $2.88 billion from $2.39 billion in the first quarter of 2005.

Total earnings, including the impact of discontinued operations, were $151 million, or 36 cents/share, in the first quarter, compared with $121 million, or 29 cents/share, for the same period in 2005. For its regulated utilities, Xcel reported first quarter profits of $162 million, or 38 cents/share, compared to $135 million, or 32 cents/share, for the first quarter the previous year.

The first-quarter increase was due primarily to stronger utility margins, Xcel said, but most of this was offset by higher operating and maintenance expenses. Natural gas rate increases, and/or gas/electric rate changes in Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota contributed to increased utility margins, the company said.

Xcel CEO Richard Kelly said the company was achieving its earnings growth objective and that it was reaffirming 2006 earnings guidance in the range of $1.25/share to $1.35/share.

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