Hurt by the recession, increased expenses and lower production at its nuclear power plants,

Entergy

(ETR) - Get Report

, the New Orleans-based utility, reported a 24% decline in first-quarter profits, missing Wall Street forecasts.

The company, which had warned investors last month that its profits would come up short of estimates, said its earnings fell to $235.3 million, or $1.20 a share, compared with $308.7 million, or $1.56 a share, a year earlier. Analysts were looking for $1.34 a share, according to a Thomson Reuters poll.

Revenue declined 2.6% to $2.79 billion, from $2.86 billion in the prior-year period. Analysts forecast revenue of $3.07 billion, on average.

The company blamed its first-quarter results on a range of issues, including higher taxes, the cost of depreciation and amortization, scheduled refueling outages at its nuclear generators that reduced production and a 13% decline in megawatt-hour sales to industrial customers.

The company also said in its press release announcing earnings that it's moving forward with plans to spin off its wholesale nuclear business, called Enexus Energy, in a tax-free transaction that will create a new publicly traded company.

Entergy, which has been looking to separate Enexus for a year and a half, added that it will form a nuclear-services joint venture with the newly independent company. Entergy gave no timetable for the spinoff, saying that it still awaits regulatory approval.

Entergy shares were up nearly 5% in afternoon trading Monday, changing hands recently at $69.86.

Looking ahead, Entergy reaffirmed its full-year 2009 earnings guidance of $6.70 to $7.30 per share. Analysts have a target for the year of $6.82 a share.

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