NEW YORK (AP) — Duke Energy lost $97 million in the first quarter after reducing the value of a fleet of coal-fired power plants in the Midwest that it is trying to sell.
Duke announced in February that it would try to unload the power plants in the Midwest that sell power into wholesale markets, instead of directly to customers. Wholesale prices have been extremely volatile, but generally low in recent years, due to extremely low natural gas prices.
The company's regulated utility operations, however, performed better than expected due to stronger demand as the economy recovers. It's also able to charge higher rates.
Duke lost 14 cents per share on revenue of $6.62 billion in the first three months of the year. Last year, the company earned $634 million, or 89 cents per share, on revenue of $5.9 billion.
Adjusted to remove the $1.4 billion write-down of the coal plants, Duke earned $1.17 per share in the latest quarter. That's up from last year's adjusted $1.02 per share and higher than the $1.12 expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.
"We're seeing this economic recovery deepen and broaden a bit," said Duke CFO Steve Young in an interview Wednesday. "It's started to get into median income households and small businesses."
Electricity sales rose 7.1 percent in the quarter, and 2.6 percent when the effect of weather was removed.
Christopher Muir, an analyst at S&P Capital IQ, said the growth was promising. "It's not enough of a trend yet," he said. But it's definitely encouraging."