Nicor Inc. (NYSE: GAS) today reported third quarter 2011 preliminary net income, operating income and diluted earnings per common share were $5.7 million, $18.3 million and $0.12, respectively. This compares to net income, operating income and diluted earnings per common share for the same period in 2010 of $13.6 million, $30.4 million and $0.30, respectively.

Results for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2010 included a $1.3 million pre-tax reduction to the company’s previously established reserve for its mercury inspection and repair program.

Excluding the impact of the mercury item noted above, earnings for the three months ended September 30, 2011, compared to the same period in 2010, reflect higher operating income in the company’s gas distribution business as well as higher corporate operating results, more than offset by lower operating results in the company’s shipping and other energy-related businesses. The three-months-ended comparisons also reflect higher pre-tax equity investment income and lower interest expense, partially offset by a higher effective income tax rate in 2011.

For the nine months ended September 30, 2011, preliminary net income, operating income and diluted earnings per common share were $70.1 million, $119.3 million and $1.52, respectively. This compares to net income, operating income and diluted earnings per common share for the same period in 2010 of $98.3 million, $169.8 million and $2.15, respectively. Year-to-date results for 2010 included a $19.7 million after tax benefit (or approximately $0.42 per share) related to the bad debt tracker (explained in more detail below). Without this benefit, September year-to-date 2010 earnings per share would have been approximately $1.73.

Excluding the impact of the mercury item noted above, earnings for the nine months ended September 30, 2011, compared to the same period in 2010, reflect lower operating results in the company’s gas distribution, shipping and other energy-related businesses, as well as lower corporate operating results. The nine-months-ended comparisons also reflect higher pre-tax equity investment income and lower interest expense, partially offset by a higher effective income tax rate in 2011.

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