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On March 9, 2009, Piedmont Natural Gas ( PNY) reported that its Q1 FY09 net income slipped 1.7% to $80.88 million or $1.10 per share from $82.27 million or $1.12 per share due to lower revenues. The latest quarterly consensus estimate was $1.12 per share.

During Q1 FY09, Piedmont's total operating revenue decreased 1.1% to $779.64 million from $778.47 million, hurt by a $37.10 million decrease in secondary market transactions owing to decreased activity and gas costs, offset by the pass-through of increased commodity gas and demand costs to its customers. Cost of gas slipped marginally to $558.96 million from $561.44 million. As a result, gross profit margin contracted 48 basis points to 28.31% from 28.79% a year ago. Operations and maintenance expenses decreased 3.5% to $50.73 million from $52.58 million, while depreciation spiked 6.3% to $24.14 million from $22.71 million. Operating income plunged 4.1% to $88.13 million from $91.94 million in Q1 FY08.

Gas sales and deliveries increased 6.5% to 52.38 million Dekatherms from 49.20 million Dekatherms. Transportation volumes rose 3.4% to 24.16 million Dekatherms from 23.36 million Dekatherms. Subsequently, total throughput was up 5.5% to 76.53 million Dekatherms. Moreover, secondary market volumes dropped 16.7% to 13.39 million Dekatherms from 16.09 million Dekatherms. Total number of customers billed at the end of the quarter increased to 965,402 from 958,871 in Q1 FY08. However, gross customer additions dropped 45.4% to 3,913 from 7,163 in the year-ago quarter.

The company recently declared a quarterly dividend of $0.27 per share payable on April 15, 2009.

Looking forward to FY09, PNY lowered its earnings guidance to be in the range of $1.45 to $1.60 per share from its previous guidance of $1.55 to $1.65 per share. For FY09, the company anticipates gross customer additions in the range of 1.0% to 1.5% and net customers billed to grow by 0.5% to 1.0%.

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