NEW YORK (

TheStreet

)

-- Southern

(NYSE:

SO

) has been reiterated by TheStreet Ratings as a buy with a ratings score of A+ . The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its expanding profit margins, growth in earnings per share, increase in net income and solid stock price performance. Although the company may harbor some minor weaknesses, we feel they are unlikely to have a significant impact on results.

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    Highlights from the ratings report include:

      • 37.50% is the gross profit margin for SOUTHERN CO which we consider to be strong. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 15.30% is above that of the industry average.
      • SOUTHERN CO's earnings per share improvement from the most recent quarter was slightly positive. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, SOUTHERN CO increased its bottom line by earning $2.55 versus $2.36 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.65 versus $2.55).
      • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the Electric Utilities industry average, but is less than that of the S&P 500. The net income increased by 3.1% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $620.00 million to $639.00 million.
      • The stock has not only risen over the past year, it has done so at a faster pace than the S&P 500, reflecting the earnings growth and other positive factors similar to those we have cited here. Looking ahead, the stock's rise over the last year has already helped drive it to a level which is relatively expensive compared to the rest of its industry. We feel, however, that the other strengths this company displays justify these higher price levels.
      • SO, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 3.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 7.5%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.

      The Southern Company operates as an electric utility company. It is involved in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity through coal, nuclear, oil and gas, and hydro resources. The company has a P/E ratio of 19.3, below the average utilities industry P/E ratio of 19.5and above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Southern has a market cap of $41.77 billion and is part of the

      utilities

      sector and

      utilities

      industry. Shares are up 4.6% year to date as of the close of trading on Friday.

      You can view the full

      Southern Ratings Report

      or get investment ideas from our

      investment research center

      .

      --Written by a member of TheStreet Ratings Staff.

      TheStreet ratings do not represent the views of TheStreet's staff or its contributors. Ratings are established by computer based on metrics for performance (which includes growth, stock performance, efficiency and valuation) and risk (volatility and solvency). Companies with poor cash flow or high debt levels tend to earn lower ratings in our model.

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