Thursday, November 6, 2008

CenterPoint Natural Gas Profit

CenterPoint Energy Inc., Houston’s power distributor, said third-quarter profit rose 49 percent after contracts locking in prices in the company’s natural gas business increased in value.

Net income climbed to $136 million, or 39 cents a share, from $91 million, or 27 cents, a year earlier, Houston-based CenterPoint said today in a statement. The company recorded a one-time gain of $46 million to reflect an increase in the valuation of gas contracts.

CenterPoint had profit of $35 million before interest and taxes from gas sales in competitive markets, up from $4 million in 2007’s third quarter. Earnings from gathering and processing gas rose 69 percent to $44 million, and gas utilities had a loss of $6 million, compared with an $8 million loss a year earlier. Interstate pipelines earned $55 million before interest and taxes, down 21 percent.

“They had very strong performance in a couple of the gas units,” said Debra Bromberg, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York who has a “buy” rating on CenterPoint shares and doesn’t own any. She said profit exceeded her estimate.

CenterPoint didn’t provide a figure for earnings excluding one-time costs and gains. Items such as a $46 million gain on gas contracts and a $24 million drop in the value of fuel inventories were quantified before taxes.

The company raised its 2008 earnings forecast to $1.25 to $1.35 a share. The company said previously that per-share profit would be in the upper half of its estimate of $1.15 to $1.25. Third-quarter revenue rose 34 percent to $2.52 billion.

CenterPoint rose 25 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $11.92 at 9:33 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has five buy and three hold ratings from analysts.

Profit from power transmission and distribution rose 3.1 percent to $202 million as the addition of more than 42,000 metered customers made up for the loss of sales caused by Hurricane Ike, which knocked out electricity service to more than 2 million homes and businesses in the Houston area when it struck Texas on Sept. 13.

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