Warm Winter Pushes Down Allete 1Q Net

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) â¿¿ Power company owner Allete Inc. said its first-quarter net income fell 34 percent as residential customers used less electricity during a mild winter.

The company earned $24.4 million, or 66 cents per share, for the quarter that ended March 31. That was down from $37.2 million, or $1.07 per share, during the same period last year. Revenue fell slightly to $240 million, from $242.2 million a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected a profit of 70 cents per share on revenue of $243.5 million.

The decline in operating profits was smaller than it looked because the year-ago quarter included a reversal of a tax liability, benefiting the year-ago results by 18 cents per share. Also, Allete sold shares to pay for a capital investment program, hurting results by 4 cents per share compared to a year ago.

Allete said residential customers in its Minnesota Power unit used about 1 percent less electricity than a year ago because of the mild winter. The weather-related impact added up to about 5 cents per share, the company said. Industrial use rose 1.7 percent as iron-ore mining in Minnesota's Iron Range ran near capacity.

Allete's full-year guidance remained unchanged at $2.45 to $2.65 per share. It expects strong industrial demand for electricity, rising rates, and a five percent increase in operating and maintenance expense. Analysts forecast profit of $2.47 per share.

Allete owns a Minnesota electric utility that serves 144,000 residents and large industrial customers. It also owns part of an electric transmission company; a coal mine in North Dakota; a water, electric and natural gas utility in Superior, Wis.; and a real estate division that owns properties in Florida.

Allete shares fell 48 cents to close at $40.67.
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