Entergy 4Q Net Falls but Tops Views

Hit by lower revenues that could not be wholly offset by increased spending and outages, Entergy(NYSE:ETR) reported on Tuesday a 27% drop in fourth-quarter profit, though it still narrowly trumped Wall Street estimates.

The New Orleans-based company posted net earnings of $228.3 million, or $1.26 a share, compared with $313.8 million, or $1.64 a share, in the same quarter last year.

Excluding special items, the company earned $1.30 a share, ahead of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of $1.24 a share.

Revenue for the electric power producer was $2.5 billion, flat from a year ago, missing the Street’s view of $2.68 billion.

“Once again our businesses delivered strong operational performance and for the sixth year in a row we achieved record operational earnings per share,” said Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard. “Our efforts in 2010 have positioned us for future success.”

Earnings were hit by a slight drop in its utility segment, due primarily to higher fossil outage spending, the timing of reliability-related spending and higher compensation and benefit costs, partially offset by higher sales, favorable weather and pricing adjustments. Commercial and industrial sales growth contributed to the results, up 1.5% and 7%, respectively.

Results in its wholesale commodities unit slipped 24%, a result of lower net revenue due to additional planned and unplanned outage days at its nuclear plants as well as lower pricing for both nuclear and non-nuclear wholesale assets.

Despite the weaker results, Entergy reaffirmed its 2011 earnings guidance in the range of $6.35 to $6.85 a share.