ERNEST SCHEYDER

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ The president and chief executive of gas and electric utility NiSource Inc. received compensation valued at $3 million in 2008, a 37 percent increase from the previous year, according to an Associated Press analysis of a regulatory filing.

The Merrillville, Ind.-based company paid Robert C. Skaggs Jr. $791,667 in base salary, up 5.6 percent from the year before.

Skaggs, 54, did not receive a bonus or performance-related cash bonus in 2008 or 2007.

NiSource gave Skaggs stock awards valued at $2.1 million when they were granted in March 2008, up 55.6 percent from similar awards granted the previous year.

Skaggs also received $60,003 in perks, including $8,753 in tax-preparation service, $17,625 in 401(k) contributions and $33,625 in contributions to a savings plan.

In 2007, Skaggs received $2.16 million in total compensation.

The AP's calculations of total compensation include salary, bonus, performance-related incentives, perks, any above-market returns on deferred compensation and the estimated value of stock options and awards granted during the year. They may vary from totals listed in the summary compensation table in the company's proxy filed with the SEC.

According to NiSource's filing, the compensation committee benchmarks its executive pay practices against a group of companies that includes TXU Corp., Duke Energy Corp. and Aquila Inc.

The committee also has established a guideline for Skaggs to own shares having a value of five times his base salary in order to align his interests with those of shareholders.

In 2008, NiSource earned $79 million, or 29 cents per share, down from $321.4 million, or $1.17 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose to $8.87 billion from $7.87 billion.

Shares fell 42 percent in 2008 to close the year at $10.97.
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