ATLANTA (AP) â¿¿ Southern Co., one of the largest electricity distributors in the U.S., said Wednesday that its fourth-quarter net income fell, though its revenue rose.

Net income fell 38 percent to $153.5 million, or 18 cents per share, from $248.3 million, or 31 cents per share last year. Net income for the fourth quarter includes a charge of 25 cents per share related to a settlement agreement with MC Asset Recovery LLC to resolve a lawsuit related to the 2003 bankruptcy of Mirant Corp., a Southern Company subsidiary until its 2001 spin-off.

The company's maintenance and operations expense rose, which it said reflected a return to more normal spending than in 2009. It said accruals to the natural disaster reserve at Alabama Power also increased.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $3.77 billion, from $3.51 billion last year.

Southern brought in more revenue than Wall Street analysts expected, though its profit met expectations. On average, analysts expected Southern to report earnings of 18 cents per share and revenue of $3.65 billion for the quarter, according to FactSet.

For the full year, net income rose 21 percent to $1.98 billion, or $2.37 per share, from $1.64 billion, or $2.07 per share, in 2009. The company benefitted from a summer that was warmer than normal and a winter that was colder.

Revenue rose 11 percent to $17.46 billion, compared with $15.74 billion in 2009.

"Economic factors such as unemployment continue to challenge the pace of economic recovery, but we see positive signs -- such as increased manufacturing activity -- that should bode well for 2011," said CEO Thomas A. Fanning.

Analysts expected earnings of $2.37 per share and revenue of $17.096 billion for the year.

Southern shares were unchanged after hours. They ended regular trading Wednesday at $38.16, down 30 cents.
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