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beat Wall Street's earnings estimates for the first quarter as demand for electricity grew in the Southeast.

The power company said it earned $180 million, or 26 cents a share, excluding the results from its



unit, which was spun off April 2. Ten analysts polled by

Thomson Financial/First Call

were expecting earnings of 23 cents a share in the period, a consensus estimate that also excluded Mirant. The company earned $151 million, or 23 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Shares of Southern, which is based in Atlanta, gained 33 cents, or 1.4%, to $23.63 in recent

New York Stock Exchange


The company also provided figures including the unit, the last quarter Southern will have earnings contributions from Mirant. Southern said earnings from operations totaled $320 million, or 47 cents a share, including Mirant. The company earned $237 million, or 37 cents a share, in the same period last year.

"We are on track to deliver on the financial, operating and customer service targets we have set for 2001," the company said in a statement.