Mild winter weather chills BGE earnings First-quarter results down nearly 30 percent

April 19, 1997|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reported yesterday that mild ** winter weather put a deep freeze on its earnings for the first quarter of 1997, as the utility's profit fell nearly 30 percent.

The company generated common stock profits of $64.2 million, 43 cents a share, for the period ended March 31, compared with earnings of $91.1 million, 62 cents per share, a year ago. Revenues for the quarter rose 3 percent, to $887.7 million.

The company attributed the decline to an extended, unseasonable warm spell during the 1997 first quarter, a sharp bTC contrast to the blizzard-laden weather Baltimore faced in early 1996. BGE noted that the quarter represented the seventh warmest first quarter since the company began keeping records in 1950. "The negative impact of the weather was somewhat mitigated by our continued diligence in controlling costs," said George C. Creel, a BGE executive vice president and acting chief operating officer.

Total electric sales fell nearly 7 percent, with the biggest hit a 12.6 percent decline in residential use. Commercial and industrial electric sales slipped 2.3 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Natural gas sales to residential customers also dropped considerably, by 16.1 percent. Although industrial gas sales rose 13 percent, the overall decline amounted to a 5.2 percent fall.

"Maryland was one of the harder-hit states, in terms of favorable weather," said Ronald S. Tanner, a utility industry analyst at Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. "BGE's heating degree days, the measurement the industry uses, were down 16 percent from last year, and 11 percent below normal."

Earnings for BGE's Constellation Holdings Inc. were virtually unchanged in the first-quarter comparison, despite a $12 million after-tax write-down of its Church Street Station entertainment center in Orlando, Fla.

BGE stock closed at $25.75 yesterday, up 75 cents.

Pub Date: 4/19/97

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