Duke Energy Corp, the largest U.S. power company by generation capacity, reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as exceptionally cold winter weather boosted electricity demand.
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Duke, which sells power to 7.3 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, said adjusted income in its regulated power business rose 5 percent to $774 million.
"Our customers needed a record amount of electricity during the exceptionally cold weather in February," Chief Executive Lynn Good said in a statement on Friday.
Net income attributable to Duke was $864 million, or $1.22 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, compared with a loss of $97 million, or 14 cents per share, a year earlier.
The year earlier quarter included an impairment charge of about $1.4 billion related to the company's non-regulated Midwest generation business, which was later sold to Dynegy Inc .
The company has been cutting exposure to the volatility of wholesale power markets and focusing on regulated markets, where power prices are stable.
For the latest quarter, adjusted profit was $1.24 per share, topping the average analyst estimate of $1.14 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Duke, which also operates in Brazil, Argentina and Chile, said adjusted income from its international business fell 72 percent, mainly due to a multi-year drought in Brazil that hurt hydro-electric generation.
The company has been converting some of its coal-powered plants into cheaper and less polluting plants that run on natural gas.
"Low natural gas prices are a very significant benefit for our customers and they've enjoyed these prices as we've continued to add natural gas for our system," Good told Reuters.
Duke shares closed at $77.57 on the New York Stock Exchange after rising 4 percent in the past 12 months. (Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)