Power Producers? Quarterly Earnings Reflect Little of State Ops

By Published On: May 14, 2005

Unregulated energy businesses? first-quarter earnings showed some major losses and a few big gains, although the gains were not directly attributable to California operations. <b>AES:</b> It wasn?t California operations but South American plants that contributed to AES?s nearly tripled profit for the first quarter of the year. Income was $133 million, up from $48 million this time last year. <b>Calpine:</b> Trying to dispel rumors of the company?s lack of compliance with obligations related to selling its Saltend project in the United Kingdom, Calpine reported a loss this past quarter of $168.7 million, compared with a loss at this time last year of $71 million. The quarterly earnings were delivered two weeks after a buzz of impending bankruptcy. Chief executive officer Peter Cartwright told analysts, ?These rumors are all false.? He said they have been a distraction to business but have not affected it. Four days after the report, Standard & Poor?s lowered Calpine?s rating to <i>B?</i> from <i>B</i>, noting that the company has about $18 billion in outstanding debt. Moody?s on May 12 downgraded the rating of Calpine Corp.?s senior implied debt to <i>B3</i> from <i>B2</i> and subsidiary Calpine Generating Co.?s credit facilities to <i>B2</i> from <i>B1</i>. Business advisers the Motley Fool said the company could use a ?debt fairy? for its $18 billion of debt. Interest expense was up 40 percent in the quarter, while revenue grew 9 percent, according to Motley. Calpine has mounted many debt refinancings in the last few years. In the near term, ?Calpine is pursuing opportunities to further leverage our operating fleet, especially in California and Texas, where forward pricing for the summer is strong,? stated Cartwright. For California plants in the revenue stream, Pastoria began ramping up last week, and Metcalf is supposed to start up next month. On the other hand, the company is looking at selling assets. Calpine chief operating officer Bob Kelly said that Calpine?s Geysers facility could be worth between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. ?We haven?t determined to do anything, just outlining the value of that asset,? he said. <b>Constellation:</b> For the first quarter of 2005, Constellation reported earnings of $120.7 million, almost double the first quarter of last year?s $66.2 million. The company?s High Desert power plant was noted for its 99 percent reliability. <b>Duke:</b> Duke Energy reported net income for the past quarter of $868 million, way up from the same quarter last year, with $311 million. Its Duke Energy North America subsidiary, which owns, for instance, the Morro Bay plant, reported a loss of $35 million in first-quarter 2005, compared to segment loss of $557 million in first-quarter 2004. The big news, however, was not earnings but the company?s May 9 announcement of a $9 billion stock deal to purchase Cinergy. The two companies would have 5.4 million customers in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, North and South Carolina, and Ontario, Canada, and joint assets worth more than $70 billion. Because of that announcement, Standard & Poor?s placed the two companies on credit watch with ?negative implications.? S&P?s reasoning is Duke?s indication that it may expand higher-risk nonregulated activity after the merger. <b>Dynegy:</b> Dynegy posted a $267 million loss for the quarter, compared to income last year at this time of $65 million. Contributing to the losses were a settlement with the University of California and a change in another tolling agreement. West Coast Power, Dynegy?s joint venture in California with NRG, found lower earnings as a result of the expiration of a contract with the state at the end of 2004. ?I am confident that entering into the [University of California] settlement was the best possible decision for Dynegy, as it removed the last critical risk from the energy merchant era,? said chief executive officer Bruce Williamson. The lawsuit alleged violations of securities laws primarily related to accounting and disclosure of a natural gas transaction known as Project Alpha. The settlement totaled $468 million, with $150 million coming from the company?s insurers. This year, $268 million will be paid. <b>FPL Group:</b> FPL Energy, the company?s power plant?owning subsidiary, reported $37 million in net income, compared to $53 million for the same quarter last year. Its wind turbines? contributions to the bottom line were down because of ?extremely poor wind resource during the first quarter,? said the company. An ongoing dispute over repermitting its Altamont Pass wind farm at Alameda County continues, with environmentalists fighting the permits because of bird kills. The county is set to vote on the permits June 2. FPL also bought a 67 percent interest in 150 MW of solar in the Mojave Desert this quarter. <b>NRG Energy:</b> In the first quarter of this year, NRG Energy reported $22.6 million in income, versus the first quarter of 2004?s $30.2 million. For its joint venture with Dynegy, West Coast Power, NRG reported that its California power plants accounted for just $3.5 million this quarter, compared to $33.3 million in 2004. The plants? contracts with the Department of Water Resources expired at the end of 2004, accounting for the change, according to NRG. <b>Reliant:</b> Reliant Energy posted a first-quarter loss of $25 million, less than the loss last year at this time of $42 million. Losses were due in part to hedging, according to chief executive officer Joel Staff. Its Etiwanda plant restart contributed to increased gross margins in the West. In California, the company has 4,000 MW of generating capacity and 184 MW mothballed. <b>Williams:</b> For the first quarter, Williams noted $201 million in earnings?a significant rise from $9.9 million in the first quarter last year. The company said that the increases were due in part to increased natural gas prices from its production and sales divisions. Williams has natural gas and power sales contracts with the state through 2010.

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