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Duke Energy quarterly profits get boost from federal tax overhaul

Duke Energy’s headquarters tower, left, is shown in this June 2017 photo. On Tuesday, Duke reported profit of $703 million for the last three months of 2017, results that were partially helped by the recent federal tax overhaul.
Duke Energy’s headquarters tower, left, is shown in this June 2017 photo. On Tuesday, Duke reported profit of $703 million for the last three months of 2017, results that were partially helped by the recent federal tax overhaul. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Duke Energy on Tuesday reported profit of $703 million for the last three months of 2017, results that were partially helped by the recent federal tax overhaul.

The Charlotte-based utility said the tax legislation, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December, provided a one-time $102 million boost to profits. The company also reported higher revenues in all its business segments compared with the same quarter a year earlier.

In contrast, Duke had posted a $227 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2016 that it attributed primarily to the sale of its international business segment.

Like some other companies, Duke’s financial results for the fourth quarter of 2017 were helped by legislation that slashes the corporate tax rate – what companies pay on their profits. Duke said Tuesday its effective tax rate for the quarter was 18.6 percent, compared to 26.6 percent a year earlier.

Last month, the state agency that advocates for utility customers argued that any savings Duke Energy and other public utilities receive from the lower taxes should be given back to customers. The North Carolina Utilities Commission, a regulator, is reviewing proposals from Duke to do just that.

Also Tuesday, Duke reported making $3.05 billion in profit in 2017, compared to $2.15 billion in 2016. In a statement, CEO Lynn Good called the results strong and 2017 an exceptional year for the company.

“Our vision is clear – we are investing in infrastructure our customers value and delivering sustainable growth for our investors,” she said.

The company is also seeking permission from the utilities commission to raise electricity bills on customers in Charlotte and elsewhere 13.6 percent on average. Company officials said Tuesday they are preparing for hearings before the commission that begin Feb. 27 in Raleigh. Duke wants new rates, if approved, to apply starting May 1.

In the coming months, the federal tax changes will have mixed impacts on Duke, officials said Tuesday.

The company is estimating a 13-cent hit to 2018 earnings per share. Duke said that’s partly because the smaller corporate tax rate reduces a tax shield on interest expense, resulting in lower earnings starting this year.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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