Progress Energy tops Wall Street profit expectations

The utility firm also is sticking to its profit guidance for 2009 despite what the CEO says will be a 'challenging year.'

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN) delivered a slightly higher profit in the fourth quarter last year than in 2007 and topped Wall Street analysts' expectations.

The utility giant, which provides services in the Carolinas and Florida, Thursday morning reported a 47 cents-per-share profit for the final three months of 2008. That was seven cents higher than in 2007.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had projected a 46-cent profit.

Progress shares closed at $38.70 Wednesday, up 35 cents.

"Despite the global financial crisis and economic slowdown, we successfully delivered on our 2008 financial goals with full-year ongoing earnings of $2.98," said Bill Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer at Progress, in a statement. "We know that 2009 will be a challenging year for our company and our customers. We are aggressively controlling costs to effectively manage our business, maintain high levels of reliability and minimize the impact of rising costs of fuels and new energy policies on our customers."

For 2008, Progress reported a $2.98 per share profit of $776 million, compared with $2.72 per share or $695 million in 2007.

Progress also reaffirmed its earnings guidance for 2009 at between $2.95 and $3.15 per share.

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