Exelon 4Q Profit Down 18 Percent

Power company Exelon said Friday that its fourth quarter profit fell 18 percent, as demand for electricity in the U.S. remained soft in the weak economy.

Exelon made $581 million, or 88 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31 compared with profit of $707 million, or $1.07 per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue fell to $4.12 billion from $4.49 billion a year ago.

Exelon, one of the nation’s largest power generators and the biggest operator of nuclear power plants in the U.S., says demand during the quarter continued to be weak at its utilities in the Chicago and Philadelphia areas. It says it also was hurt by outages at its nuclear power operations because of more scheduled refueling days and warmer than normal weather in the quarter.

Without charges, Exelon made $610 million, or 92 cents per share, for the quarter.

Like other power generators, Exelon has been hurt by two straight years of declining electricity usage because of the recession, with demand especially weak from industrial customers. Federal energy officials expect industrial consumption to rise modestly this year and next.

Because of lower demand, Exelon and other companies have been cutting expenses and staff.

Exelon said demand in the quarter at its Commonwealth Edison utility in the Chicago area fell 3.8 percent, and 2.3 percent for its PECO utility in the Philadelphia area.

The number of residential customers in both areas also declined in the quarter, something that has happened to utilities in other parts of the country as the recession has forced children to move back in with parents and houses to remain uninhabited after foreclosure.

Exelon reaffirmed its 2010 outlook, saying it expects operating earnings of $3.60 to $4 per share this year. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast profit of $4.04 per share.

For all of 2009, Exelon’s earnings were flat with 2008 at $2.7 billion. Earnings per share were $4.09 for the year compared with $4.13 in 2008. Without charges and gains, Exelon made $4.12 per share for the year compared with $4.20 per share in 2008.

Exelon shares fell 81 cents to $47.24 in Friday morning trading. The shares have traded between $38.41 and $58.66 over the past year.

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