By JONATHAN FAHEY
NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ With three nettlesome financial issues resolved, Duke Energy Corp. CEO Jim Rogers says the company is now ready to face a future in which homes and businesses will no longer consume increasing amounts of electricity.
Duke reported fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday that beat analyst expectations as electric rates rose and more extreme weather increased demand for power. But Rogers said underlying demand for power, not including the up-and-down effects of weather, would likely remain weak for the foreseeable future because of a slow-growing economy and efficiency programs that are making homes and businesses less energy hungry.
"The growth in demand is not going to be the same as we've experienced in the past," he said. "Our industry is going to have to change its cost structure."
Duke reported net income of $435 million, or 62 cents per share, for the fourth quarter. Adjusted to remove the effect of costs from the recent acquisition of Progress Energy and other one-time charges, Duke earned 70 cents per share. Analysts had expected the company to earn 65 cents per share on an adjusted basis.
Duke shares fell 6 cents to $68.68 in midday trading.
Duke, based in Charlotte, acquired Progress Energy in June, making it the nation's largest utility in the U.S. by market value and number of customers. The company serves 7 million electric customers in six states.
The company's results for the quarter are not directly comparable a year earlier because Progress was still independent. As a stand-alone company, Duke posted net income of $288 million in the last three months of 2011.
Performance at Duke's regulated utilities improved as a result of the addition of Progress Energy's territories in the Carolinas and Florida. Higher power prices and an income tax benefit also helped, and electricity demand was boosted by more extreme weather.