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Sempra Energy Posts 13% Increase in Profit

Net income climbs despite a drop in revenue as the cost of buying gas for customers falls 38%.

January 25, 2002|From Bloomberg News

Sempra Energy, owner of California's third-largest utility, said fourth-quarter net income rose 13% as costs for buying natural gas and power fell.

Net income increased to $107 million, or 52 cents a share, from $95 million, or 47 cents, a year earlier. Revenue fell 40% to $1.38 billion.

The company was expected to post earnings of 50 cents a share, the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call.

The company's cost of buying gas for customers fell 38% to $319 million. Power costs fell 82% to $87 million. Earnings at Sempra's San Diego Gas & Electric utility increased 18% to $45 million. The company reaffirmed it expects to earn $2.65 a share this year. It made $2.52 last year.

"Given the market conditions, it's hard to see where growth will come from," said Argus Research Corp. analyst Jeffrey Gildersleeve, who rates Sempra "buy" and doesn't own the company's shares.

Shares of San Diego-based Sempra fell 27 cents to $25 on the New York Stock Exchange. They have gained 25% in the last year.

Sempra's power-generating unit had a loss of $13 million, contrasted with profit of $14 million a year earlier, because of costs to build new plants and lower electricity prices.

Other California companies reporting earnings:

* Del Monte Foods Co. said net income jumped to $18.9 million, or 36 cents a share, from $8.5 million, or 16 cents, a year earlier. Sales at the San Francisco fruit and vegetable canner rose 9% to $391.3 million.

* Temporary staffing firm RemedyTemp Inc. in Aliso Viejo reported that its fiscal first-quarter net income dropped to $692,000, or 8 cents a share, from $2.9 million, or 32 cents, a year earlier. Net income a year ago included a charge of $1.9 million. Revenue declined 23% to $114.8 million.

* Irvine-based Exult Inc., which operates human resources departments for companies, narrowed its fourth-quarter net loss to $15.7 million, or 15 cents a share, from $52.5 million, or 60 cents, a year earlier. Revenue climbed to $89.4 million from $32 million.

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