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Power Producer Calpine's Earnings More Than Triple

February 07, 2001|From Bloomberg News

Power plant owner Calpine Corp. said Wednesday that fourth-quarter profit more than tripled, driven by higher electricity prices in California and sales from new U.S. plants.

Calpine also said it's considering expanding into Europe in what would be its first move outside North America. The company needs to look overseas to maintain earnings growth, Chief Executive Peter Cartwright said.

"We are looking at markets that have characteristics that are similar to the U.S.," Cartwright said.

Net income for the San Jose-based company rose to $107.7 million, or 34 cents a share, from $30.8 million, or 12 cents, a year earlier. Revenue quadrupled to $1 billion from $247.5 million.

Over the last 12 months, a shortage of power plants in California and flaws in the state's deregulation laws let generators such as Calpine charge utilities as much as 100 times the average price in 1999.

Calpine has California power plants that can produce more than 1,300 megawatts, or enough to light 1.3 million homes. About 20% of Calpine's total generation capacity is in California, said Richard Barraza, Calpine's vice president of investor relations.

On Tuesday, the company and closely held Bechtel Group Inc. announced plans to build a natural gas power plant to serve the San Francisco area. The plant, with a planned 600 megawatt capacity, or enough capacity to power 600,000 homes, is in the primary development stages, Calpine spokesman Richard Barraza said. The plant will be in Hayward.

Regulatory approval and construction of the plant will take about three years, Barraza said. Calpine has 1,900 megawatts of generation under construction in California and plans to build an additional 2,100 megawatts.

Calpine shares fell 38 cents to close at $39.63 on the New York Stock Exchange. They've more than doubled during the last year.

The company owns about 500 billion cubic feet of gas reserves, Cartwright said. No fuel is needed for geothermal plants, which pump water into deep wells where the Earth's heat converts it to steam. The steam is piped to the surface to spin generating turbines.

Calpine was expected to earn 31 cents a share, the average estimate of analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial. In January, the company said it expected to report earnings of about 30 cents.

It has 28 gas-fired plants in several U.S. states, providing enough electricity to light 5 million homes. Its expansion is aimed at boosting its capacity to 70,000 megawatts, or enough to light 70 million homes, by 2005.

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