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News results in heavy trading

FirstEnergy reports second-quarter loss; stock up 2.6 percent for the day

By Katie Byard
Beacon Journal business writer

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FirstEnergy Corp. on Tuesday reported a loss of $164 million in the second quarter, attributing it to costs of closing coal-fired power plants.

The Akron-headquartered utility — one of the area’s largest nongovernment employers — lost 39 cents a share in the second quarter ended June 30. That compares with a profit of $188 million, or 45 cents a share, the company earned in the second quarter a year ago.

Revenues for this year’s second quarter were $3.52 billion, down from $3.76 billion a year ago.

Analysts had expected sales of $3.61 billion. Adjusted earnings per share of 59 cents, however, beat the analysts’ forecast of 54 cents.

Wall Street reacted to the earnings report with heavy trading, with 8.84 million shares changing hands. That compares with average daily trading of 4.35 million shares for this year.

FirstEnergy said Tuesday the shutdowns of the two power plants in Pennsylvania reduced earnings by 85 cents a share. The company revealed the plant deactivation plans in July, blaming the costs of complying with current and future environmental regulations and low electric prices.

Company President and CEO Anthony Alexander, in a prepared statement, called the results “solid” and said they were “in line with our expectations.”

Also Tuesday, the company reaffirmed its 2013 earnings projection of $2.85 to $3.15 a share for the full year.

Adjusted earnings benefited during the quarter from reduced costs and higher deliveries, but were negatively affected, the company said, by higher taxes.

“We continue to focus on targeted growth opportunities in our competitive and regulated businesses,” Alexander said in the prepared statement, “while taking additional steps to further reduce costs across the company in light of the continued sluggish economy in much of our region, weak market prices for power, and environmental mandates.” The company reported having 2,456 Summit County employees at the end of 2012.

In the second quarter, total electric distribution decreased 1 percent compared with the year-ago quarter, the company said. Electric deliveries to commercial customers declined 3 percent, and industrial electric deliveries dropped 2 percent, while sales to residential customers increased 3 percent from the prior-year period. Shares closed Tuesday at $38.01, up 97 cents or 2.6 percent. For the calendar year, shares, including dividends, were down 5.2 percent. Shares were down 19 percent from a year ago.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.


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