Progress Energy this morning reported a boost in second-quarter earnings as the Raleigh-based power company continues shaving costs in the face of an anemic economy.
The company reported earnings of $211 million, or 71 cents per share, up 13 percent from the same three-month period a year ago.
In the midst of a planned merger with cross-state neighbor Duke Energy, Progress executives this year have been focused on clearing regulatory reviews and avoiding tactical mistakes that could complicate getting the merger approved.
“Favorable weather in the second quarter, coupled with continued financial discipline within the company, helped us successfully deliver on our earnings per share goal for the first half of the year,” said Progress CEO Bill Johnson in a statement. “We continue to feel the effects of a challenging economy in our service area, but we remain focused on managing the business effectively...”
Progress, with 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida, has been battered by the recession and subsequent economic malaise, even though the company has a captive customer base of households and businesses that don’t have a choice of electricity provider. Still, the recession marked the first time in decades that Progress, as well as other electric utilities around the country, saw a reduction in electricity sales and a decline in customer growth.
The financial challenges of making multi-billion dollar investments in power plants, transmission lines and other operations forced Progress into the arms of another utility, resulting in a planned merger with Charlotte-based Duke Energy. When completed, the corporate union will create the nation’s biggest electric company, with 7.1 million customers in six states, to be based in Charlotte and headed by Johnson.
Progress and Duke shareholders are scheduled to vote on the merger Aug. 23. In anticipation of the vote, the two companies have settled nine class-action shareholder lawsuits challenging the soundness of the proposed merger.
The merger has received approval from Kentucky regulators on the condition of a two-year rate freeze. It still awaits a review from the N.C. Utilities Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, among other agencies.
In the second quarter, which ended June 30, Progress reported sales of $2.26 million, down from $2.37 million.