Progress meets earnings expectations but CEO warns 2010 will be tough

Raleigh-based utility reaffirms its revenue forecast for the coming year after reporting a 50-cent per share profit in fourth quarter. CEO warns “still-sluggish economy” means “another challenging year.”

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RALEIGH, N.C.Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN) met Wall Street analysts’ expectations for earnings in the fourth quarter with a profit of $164 million, or 50 cents per share.

The Raleigh-based utility said Thursday before the markets opened that it also was standing by earlier guidance of a profit of between $2.85 and $3.05 per share for the coming year. That’s in line with analyst expectations of $3, according to wire service reports.

Despite the sluggish economy, Progress said revenues rose slightly to $2.3 billion compared to $2.2 billion a year ago. Analysts had projected a decline in revenues to $2.08 billion.

Profits adjusted for one-time expenses and other items were 47 cents for the fourth quarter of 2008.

For the full year of 2009, however, profits declined from $3.17 in 2008 to $2.75 per share.

"In the extremely tough economy of 2009, Progress Energy aggressively managed its costs and met its financial goals while reliably and responsibly serving customers," said Bill Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement.

"The still-sluggish economy will make 2010 another challenging year, and the recent regulatory decision in Florida exacerbates that challenge,” he added, referring to a decision by regulators to deny a rare increase.

“But we are working in a focused, constructive way to meet our short-term priorities while also creating long-term value for our customers and shareholders,” Johnson said. “I believe strongly in the ability of our employees and the future growth prospects of the communities we serve."

Progress shares closed at $37.93 on Wednesday.




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