A colder than usual year and sinking interest expense helped NiSource Inc.â€™s earnings leap ahead for the quarter ended Dec. 31, but earnings for all of 2003 dropped a whopping 77 percent from the previous yearâ€™s earnings due mostly to the sale of discontinued operations assets.
“They took a beating on what they sold,” said Jim Halloren, an analyst with NatCity Investments.
NiSource earned $139.8 million, or 54 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31. That was up 70 percent from the $82.1 million, or 36 cents per share, earned in the same period a year ago.
The consensus earnings estimate of analysts polled by Zacks.com was 56 cents per share for the quarter, 2 cents above the actual earnings per share.
Revenues hit $1.7 billion for the quarter, compared with $1.7 billion.
NiSource earned $85.2 million, or 33 cents per share, for the year ended Dec. 31, down 77 percent from the $372.5 million, or $1.77 per share, earned in 2002.
Revenues rose to $6.2 billion for the year compared with $5.3 billion.
“They did a good job on paying down debts and holding the line on costs,” said Michael C. Heim, an equity analyst with A.G. Edwards & Sons. “Itâ€™s been a good turnaround story as a whole.”
Earnings per share for 2004 are estimated to be $1.65 to $1.70, said Gary Neale, chairman, president and chief executive officer of NiSource, during a conference call with analysts.
“January has been a cold month with strong natural gas sales,” Neale added. “This gives us a good start for the year.”
NiSource is an Indiana-based holding company with natural gas and electricity transmission, storage and distribution businesses serving about 3.7 million customers.