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10/24/2004

Xcel earnings down, may beat own view

The Associated Press/Dow Jones

MINNEAPOLIS Xcel Energy Inc. said Friday that third-quarter profit fell significantly due to cool weather, but predicted 2004 earnings would be close to the upper end of its previous forecast.

For the quarter ended Sept. 30, the Minneapolis-based utility reported earnings of $46.7 million, or 12 cents a share, on revenue of $2 billion. In the same period last year, it earned $287.5 million, or 69 cents a share, on revenue of $2 billion.

Income from continuing operations decreased to $166.2 million, or 40 cents a share, down from $184.6 million, or 44 cents a share. The latest results beat the average estimate of 38 cents a share in a Thomson First Call survey of analysts.

The utility company, which distributes electricity to 3 million customers and natural gas to 1.5 million in 12 western and midwestern states, said the negative effect of cooler weather was partly offset by lower depreciation and utility operating and maintenance expenses.

For the third quarter, electric utility revenue improved to $1.78 billion from $1.75 billion. Natural gas utility revenue climbed to $191.1 million from $178.7 million.

Xcel expects its 2004 earnings to be in the upper half of its prior $1.15 a share to $1.25 a share forecast. The company said it could exceed its own view, citing potential tax benefits of up to 4 cents a share.

Analysts had been expecting 2004 earnings of $1.22 a share compared with $1.29 a share a year earlier.

Xcel Energy expects 2005 earnings of $1.18 a share to $1.28 a share. Analysts are expecting $1.29 a share.

In the nine months ended Sept. 30, the company earned $283 million, or 69 cents a share, on revenue of $6.09 billion.