Piedmont Natural Gas reported lower than expected first-quarter earnings but higher margins, thanks to rate changes in North Carolina.
For the quarter that ended Jan. 31, the Charlotte-based natural gas distributor reported earnings of $93 million, or $1.18 per share. The results missed the per share estimate of Bloomberg-surveyed analysts by 7 cents and were down from the first quarter of 2014, when earnings totaled $97.6 million, or $1.26 a share.
Margin for the quarter was $270.1 million, up $8.6 million from the first quarter of 2014. Margins were boosted in part because of higher customer rates in North Carolina that went into effect in 2014.
“We are off to a good start this year in line with our expectations,” said Thomas Skains, Piedmont Natural Gas chairman, president and CEO, in a statement. “Our natural gas pipeline delivery system continued to perform very well, delivering natural gas safely and reliably to our customers and the communities we serve, even as we faced significantly colder than normal temperatures during our first fiscal quarter.”
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Piedmont Natural Gas reported that operations and maintenance expenses totaled $66.2 million for the quarter, up $5.5 million from the same quarter in 2014, primarily because of increased contract labor, higher payroll from additional employees and overtime and “approved amortization of regulatory assets.”
The company reaffirmed its full-year earnings guidance of $1.82 to $1.92 a share.
In February, which was after the company’s first-quarter reporting period, Piedmont Natural Gas delivered a record volume of gas. It was the coldest month in Piedmont’s three-state territory.