FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron on Tuesday reported net income of $142 million for the fourth quarter, a turnaround from the same period a year ago when the power company lost $148 million.
Earnings per share totaled 34 cents. That compares with a loss of 35 cents a share a year ago.
Operating earnings for the 2013 fourth quarter were 75 cents a share. This beat the forecasts of analysts, who had estimated operating earnings of 69 cents a share.
The company’s fourth-quarter revenues, however, fell short of analysts’ expectations. Revenues came in at $3.6 billion, compared with revenues of $3.5 billion a year ago.
The company also affirmed its 2014 operating earnings guidance range of $2.45 to $2.85 per share and provided a first quarter 2014 operating earnings guidance range of 35 cents to 45 cents a share.
“Our solid results for the fourth quarter and the full year of 2013 are at the upper end of our guidance,” said FirstEnergy President and Chief Executive Officer Anthony J. Alexander in a statement.
Alexander said the utility took “decisive actions” during 2013 designed to strengthen the company’s finances and “reposition the company to focus on more predictable and stable growth initiatives in our regulated businesses.”
That includes plans revealed earlier this year to invest $4.2 billion in its transmission business over the next four years. The expenditures will increase customers’ rates. In the last couple of years, the company has taken steps to sell assets to refocus on the regulated portion of the electricity industry.
In 2009, FirstEnergy’s portfolio consisted of 55 percent unregulated and 45 percent regulated. In 2013, the balance has changed to about 20 percent unregulated and 80 percent regulated, the company has said.
In a teleconference call with analysts, Alexander said some of the company’s “key accomplishments” include “implementing a financial plan, which reduced our debt at our competitive business by $1.5 billion, improved its credit metrics and strengthened its balance sheet.”
Alexander said the company reconfigured its “competitive generation fleet, and as a result, reduced costs while retaining a mix of generating assets that is more cost effective, efficient, and environmentally sound.”
He said in the company’s distribution business, sales increased by 1 percent in 2013. The company now serves more power customers than it did in 2007, Alexander noted, calling it “the peak year of ... economic activity.”
Another bright spot, he said, is the total of sales to industrial customers, which were up 2 percent and were primarily driven by manufacturing segments related to the shale gas in the utility’s region as well as a slight pickup in automotive manufacturing.
In January, the company reduced its dividend, payable March 1, to 36 cents a share, down from 55 cents paid since 2008.
In a statement about these actions last month, Alexander cited a “multi-year economic downturn,” storm-related expenditures and the planned spending of more than $4 billion on its transmission system.
For the year, the company had net income of $392 million, or 94 cents a share, on revenue of $14.9 billion. That compares with net income of $770 million, or $1.84 a share, on revenue of $15.3 billion.
FirstEnergy shares closed down 90 cents to $30.80 in Tuesday trading. Shares, including dividends, are down 17.9 percent from a year ago.
The company’s unaudited fourth quarter and full-year results are online at http://investors.firstenergycorp.com.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard @thebeaconjournal.com