(DUK) Duke Energy Beats The Street – Misses Revenue Target

Duke Energy Corporation (DUK) announced its third-quarter 2011 operating earnings of 50 cents per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 3 cents. However, the results were marginally lower than the year-ago earnings of 51 cents per share.

The results were driven by Duke Energy’s ability to consistently meet electricity demand during the summer months, combined with excellent performance from its International business unit.

The company reported GAAP earnings per share of 35 cents versus 51 cents per share in the year-ago period. This includes Edwardsport impairment charges of 10 cents, emission allowances impairment charges of 4 cents and costs-to-achieve the merger with Progress Energy Inc. (PGN) of 1 cent.

In the quarter under review, the company incurred a pre-tax impairment charge of approximately $220 million related to the company’s Edwardsport, Indiana, Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (“IGCC”) project. It is the result of additional project cost pressures above the cost cap of $2.72 billion, excluding financing costs, which the company previously proposed to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (“IURC”).

The current cost estimate of the project, excluding financing costs, is approximately $2.98 billion. The state-of-the-art plant is expected to come on line in 2012.

In January this year, Duke Energy decided to buy Progress Energy Inc. for $13.7 billion. Once the transaction gets through, it would create the largest U.S. utility and increase its ability to build new power plants to meet future greenhouse-gas emissions limits.

Operational Update

Duke Energy generated total revenue of $3,964 million in the third quarter, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by $159 million. However, it was above the year-ago figure of $18 million.

During the reported quarter, U.S. Franchised Electric and Gas segment sold 38,959 Gigawatt hour (‘’GWh’’) of electricity, down 3.1% from 40,200 GWh in the prior-year quarter. Commercial Power meanwhile sold 11,207 GWh versus 10,309 GWh in the prior-year quarter. Duke Energy International Energy sales during the quarter were up by 139 GWh to 4,565 GWh from 4,426 GWh a year ago.

In third quarter of 2011, total operating expenses went up $277 million year over year to $3,192 million from $2,915 million in the prior-year quarter. Operating income in the third quarter declined to $767 million compared with $1,033 million in the prior-year period.

Segment Update

U.S. Franchised Electric and Gas: Earnings before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) at the segment decreased by $225 million year over year to $721 million. The results reflect the pre-tax impairment charge as a result of the estimated cost increases associated with the Edwardsport IGCC project in Indiana. This was, however, partially offset by higher earnings from the company’s ongoing modernization program.

Commercial Power:  EBIT, during the quarter under review, was $67 million, far below the previous year figure of $188 million. The results reflect $79 million pre-tax impairment of emission allowances resulting from the recently finalized Environmental Protection Agency Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and lower mark-to-market gains on economic hedges.

Additionally, the downside reflects the annualized effect of 2010 customer switching in Ohio, which began to stabilize in the third quarter of 2010. However, this was partially offset by the Midwest gas fleet that continued to perform well and is on track to set a production record for the third straight year.

Duke Energy International: EBIT during the quarter increased by $58 million year over year to $168 million driven primarily by higher average prices and volumes from National Methanol Company, favorable hydrology and higher average prices in Central America, and favorable pricing and foreign exchange rates in Brazil.

Other:  The segment includes corporate governance expenses, costs associated with the company’s 2010 voluntary employee separation plan, costs-to-achieve the merger with Progress Energyand results from Duke Energy’s captive insurance company.

Net expenses during the quarter were $74 million compared with expenses of $100 million in the third quarter of 2010. The decrease in net expense was primarily due to prior-year severance costs associated with the voluntary employee separation plan and office consolidation, and a prior-year litigation reserve.

Financial Update

At the end of third-quarter 2011, the company held current assets worth $6,273 million compared with $6,223 million at fiscal 2010 end. Long-term debt decreased to $17,584 million from $17,935 million in fiscal 2010.

Guidance

The company believes that in the fourth quarter of 2011, it needs to focus on completion of its merger with Progress Energy, work to resolve its rate cases in the Carolinas, and remain on track to complete major generation facilities at Cliffside in North Carolina and Edwardsport in Indiana to achieve their 2012 deadlines.

Based on its 2011 performance, the company increased its fiscal year 2011 guidance from $1.40 to $1.45 per share versus its previous expectation of $1.35 to $1.40.

At the Peer

A Duke Energy competitor, Constellation Energy Group Inc. (CEG) reported its third- quarter 2011 results. In the reported quarter, the company’s adjusted earnings per share of 68 cents came below the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 89 cents. However, results were ahead of the year-ago earnings of 48 cents.

Our Take

Duke Energy Corporation’s U.S.electricity and gas operations generate a relatively stable and growing earnings stream. Looking ahead, the company’s outlook is supported by its ongoing merger proceedings with Progress Energy.  In addition,its strong balance sheet and ongoing capital expansion projects add visibility to the story.

However, valuation continues to be restrained by a number of factors, including the present unfavorable macro backdrop, predominantly fossil-fuel based generation assets, tepid demand for electricity, foreign currency exchange volatility and pending regulatory cases. The company presently retains a short-term Zacks #2 Rank (Buy). We have a long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock.

Based on Charlotte, North Carolina, Duke Energy is a diversified energy company with a portfolio of domestic and international, natural gas and electric, regulated and unregulated businesses. These businesses supply, deliver, and process energy for customers in North America and selected international markets.

CONSTELLATN EGY (CEG): Free Stock Analysis Report

DUKE ENERGY CP (DUK): Free Stock Analysis Report

PROGRESS ENERGY (PGN): Free Stock Analysis Report

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