CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) ¿ Natural gas distributor Piedmont Natural Gas on Wednesday said its fiscal year profit rose 12 percent despite a slowdown in adding new customers.

For the 12 months ended Oct. 31, the company posted profit of $122.8 million, or $1.67 per share, up from $110 million, or $1.49 per share, last year.

The company did not provide a breakdown of fourth-quarter results.

Piedmont Natural Gas, which provides gas service to homes and businesses in the Carolinas and Tennessee, said it added 12,600 customers in the year, representing a growth rate of 1.3 percent. That's down from the 20,500 customers added in fiscal 2008, and reflects the slowdown in housing construction due to the recession, the company said.

Piedmont reaffirmed its guidance for fiscal 2010 earnings of $1.90 to $2 per share. That includes an expected 42-cents-per-share gain from the sale of half of its interest in subsidiary SouthStar Energy Services to AGL Resources.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, expect profit of $1.72 per share. Analyst estimates typically exclude one-time gains and losses.

In afternoon trading, Piedmont Natural gas shares added rose 52 cents, or 2 percent, to $26.50.
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