Natural gas utility

WGL Holdings

(WGL)

said its seasonal fourth-quarter losses rose 18% from the year-ago quarter as demand for natural gas slackened.

The Washington, D.C.-based company lost $13.4 million, or 28 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $11.4 million, or 23 cents a share, last year. The losses include after-tax losses from discontinued operations of 10 cents a share. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had estimated a loss of 22 cents a share for the quarter.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 16% from a year ago to $322.5 million, thanks to an increase in non-utility revenue, vs. analysts' estimate of $109.82 million.

The company's earnings estimate for fiscal 2007 is in the range of $1.81 to $1.91 a share. Analysts expect earnings of $1.94 a share for the year. Estimates for the first quarter ending Dec. 31 is in the range of 86 cents to 92 cents a share vs. analysts' expectation of 94 cents a share.

By segment, utility revenue for the quarter fell 4% to $131.9 million and non-utility revenue rose 35% to $190.5 million.

"In a year characterized by increased customer conservation and rising operations and maintenance costs, we have continued to look for and seize opportunities to build on our strong utility business and our successful retail energy businesses. With the disposition of ACI, our emphasis on improving utility operations, the filing of a rate case in Virginia and profitable expansion in retail electricity markets, WGL Holdings is positioning itself for sustainable success," the company said.

Shares of the company were unchanged at $32.49 Wednesday before markets opened.

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