BGE earnings improve to 12 cents a share Quarter's figures hurt by charges for ending Pepco deal

January 24, 1998|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reported improved earnings in the fourth quarter of 1997, after accounting for charges related -- to the termination of its planned merger with a Washington utility.

The utility company said yesterday that it generated earnings of $18.3 million, or 12 cents per share, in the period ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $9.1 million, or 6 cents a share, in the

corresponding period of 1996. That loss was caused by charges from settling power outage cases involving the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.

In the most recent quarter, BGE would have earned 38 cents a share without the charges, up from 33 cents in the 1996 quarter.

BGE's revenue in the quarter totaled $812.6 million, up 10.6 percent from a year ago.

The company attributed part of its fourth-quarter results to mild weather and $40 million in write-downs associated with its decision last month to kill a planned $3 billion alliance with Potomac Electric Power Co. and a Florida real estate project.

"We kept our costs down and were able to neutralize the effects of mild weather," said spokesman Arthur J. Slusark.

For the year, BGE's earnings fell 6.6 percent to $254.1 million, or $1.72 a share, after accounting for the Pepco and real estate charges. Without the charges, BGE said, it would have generated earnings of $2.28 a share, compared with $2.27 a share for 1996.

Revenue for 1997 totaled $3.3 billion, up 5 percent.

BGE's results "probably could have been much better if the weather had cooperated," said Ronald S. Tanner, a Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. utility analyst. "But they were in line with our expectations. It seems as if they're steady as she goes, excluding the charges."

Electricity sales for the year dropped about 1 percent and natural gas sales were off 2 percent from 1996 levels. Slusark said the declines occurred because 1997 was 7.4 percent cooler than 1996.

BGE had some bona fide highlights.

"Our combined fossil plants generated an all-time record amount of energy, surpassing the previous record set in 1996," said Edward A. Crooke, BGE's president and chief operating officer. "And, on the distribution side, we continued to make great strides."

Pub Date: 1/24/98

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