Piedmont Natural Gas earnings fall in third quarter

Piedmont Natural Gas reported a third-quarter net loss of $7.3 million Friday, tripling the loss of the same quarter a year ago.

The company’s returns are typically soft in the quarter, which ended July 31 and didn’t benefit from gas sold as heating fuel. A 130 percent increase in utility interest charges also hurt profits.

Earnings fell 9 cents per share, compared with the 3 cents a share loss in the same quarter last year. Analysts had predicted a loss of 7 cents per share.

Operating revenues for the quarter were $164 million, up 1 percent from 2013. Margin – revenues minus the cost of gas – rose 8 percent to about $105 million.

For the first nine months of Piedmont’s year, net income was $153 million, up 10 percent from the $139 million of a year earlier. Revenues were up 19 percent, to nearly $1.3 billion, and margin rose 13 percent to $578 million.

Piedmont attributed the margin growth to a larger customer base, rate adjustments and increased gas deliveries to power plants. Colder than normal weather helped the nine-month period.

The company announced this week that it will be a 10 percent owner of a proposed 550-mile interstate pipeline from West Virginia to Eastern North Carolina.

Piedmont stock closed Friday at $37.14, up 16 cents.