Entergy (ETR) revealed on Friday a stronger-than-expected 16.3% jump in first-quarter profit, led by tighter costs that helped to offset weaker across-the-board sales.

The New Orleans-based electric energy producer posted net earnings of $248.7 million, or $1.38 a share, compared with $213.8 million, or $1.12 a share, in the same quarter last year, trumping the Street’s view of $1.34.

Revenue for the three-month period was $2.5 billion, down from $2.8 billion a year ago, falling short of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of $2.79 billion.

“Results for the quarter reflect the continued benefits of constructive regulatory decisions,” Entergy CEO Wayne Leonard said in a statement. “The quarter also brought challenges to the business climate for the nuclear industry with the tragic events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.”

The company booked stronger sales in its utilities segment, led by higher volumes and price improvements, partially offsetting weaker performance in Entergy’s wholesale commodities segment. The wholesale unit was hit by lower volumes and prices, and increased outages.

Residential sales in its utilities business ticked up 1.5%, offsetting a slight drop in commercial and government sales. The company’s industrial segment climbed 9% from the year-earlier period.

Looking ahead, Entergy anticipates fiscal 2011 earnings in the range of $6.35 a share to $6.85 a share. Analysts are expecting a profit of $6.55 a share.

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