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Fast-growing PowerSecure to reign in operating costs

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Coming off its strongest year ever, PowerSecure International got off to a shaky start in 2012 with a solid growth in sales but a net loss overall, prompting a cost-cutting strategy to curb operating expenses.

The Wake Forest energy services company has been in a hiring binge in the past year and ballooned to more than 500 employees, including 187 in multiple locations in North Carolina as of last count.

But PowerSecure's prospects appear strong, with a strong balance sheet, healthy product orders in the pipeline and a business model that's generally praised by Wall Street analysts.

CEO Sidney Hinton said in a statement the company performed well but experienced "efficiency losses" in its utility infrastructure division, the company's biggest business unit. Hinton said reduced workloads required PowerSecure to incur expenses redeploying work crews to other utilities.

The company reported a 40 percent increase in first quarter sales, from $23.7 million last year to $33.2 million in the first three months of this year.

Diluted earnings per share from continuing operations was negative 3 cents compared to negative 4 cents last year.

All three divisions increased sales between 12 percent and 73 percent for the quarter.

PowerSecure provides contract utility work crews, energy efficiency and lighting products, and emergency backup power generators.

The company's shares are down 33 percent in the past year and closed at $5.10, up 13 cents.

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About the blogger

John Murawski has been a full-time newspaper reporter since 1991, with stints at Legal Times and The Chronicle of Philanthropy (both in Washington, DC), The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Palm Beach Post (in South Florida) before arriving at the N&O in December 2004. At the N&O he covers energy (nuclear, coal, renewable, efficiency), hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking"), public utilities and health care. His beat includes PSNC Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, Duke Energy Progress, PowerSecure International, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Biogen Idec and others. He has also contributed more than 30 book reviews on topics spanning botany, history, science and religion. You can reach him at 919-829-8932 or e-mail him.