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Out-of-State Electricity Provider Duke Energy Sees Profit Windfall

January 19, 2001|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The first of the much-anticipated earnings reports from California electricity generators was released late Thursday and the company, Duke Energy, reported sharply higher income and revenue for the fourth quarter and all of 2000. The Charlotte, N.C.-based energy company owns power plants in California that generate 2,950 megawatts, or about 5%, of the state's supply.

Duke's earnings, not counting taxes and interest, nearly doubled to $4 billion for the year, while revenue jumped 127% to $49.3 billion. Duke said it also took a charge of $110 million for potential losses related to energy sales in California, of $400 million owed the company Dec. 30 for electricity and natural gas.

Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric are nearly out of cash and have said they can't pay their bills.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Duke reported a profit of $284 million, or 38 cents per share on a split-adjusted basis, compared with a net loss of $189 million, or 26 cents, a year ago. Revenue rose nearly 150% to $15.4 billion.

Earlier Thursday, Duke said it is continuing to work with Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature "to provide solutions to help relieve California's energy crisis." Duke was among four energy companies that threatened to push the utilities into bankruptcy Thursday, prompting Davis to declare a state emergency.

"The tireless hours of work with the various stakeholders involved in this crisis have been productive, including our discussion with the governor and legislative leadership last night," said Harvey Padewer, Duke's president of its energy services group.

He said the company controls only a small portion of California's electricity supply.

"It is obvious that with such a small percentage of the market, we cannot control the current crisis or the flow of power in the state," Padewer said. "In fact, for all of 2001, 90% of our generation has already been sold to other suppliers with California delivery points. All of our available generation is running flat out to meet these obligations and to supply the state's power grid during this crisis.

"There are many players in the California energy market, and all, not just a few, must be involved in providing solutions, including other suppliers in the region," he said.

Duke shares rose $1.94 to close at $71.94 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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