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Consolidated Edison Inc.’s (ED - Analyst Report) fourth-quarter 2012 earnings from continuing operations came in at 69 cents, below both the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 73 cents and year-ago quarterly earnings of 74 cents. The fall reflects changes in the rate plans of utility subsidiaries and the effect of milder winter weather on steam revenues.

On a reported basis, the company reported earnings of 71 cents per share compared with 65 cents in the year-ago quarter.

Earnings from continuing operations for full year 2012 were $3.75, down from the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.77, but above the year-ago figure of $3.64. Including the net mark-to-market effects of the competitive energy businesses, GAAP earnings per share were $3.88 versus earnings per share of $3.59 in the year-ago period.

Operational Results

Consolidated Edison reported quarterly operating revenue of $2.9 billion, a decrease of $14 million over the year-ago quarter and $465 million lower than the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Of this, Electric revenues rose $20 million to $2.0 billion, Gas revenues rose $32 million to $458 million, Steam revenues rose $5 million to $181 million and Non-utility revenues fell $71 million to $259 million.

In full year 2012, the company clocked revenue of $12.2 billion versus $12.9 billion in full year 2011. The top line also failed to meet the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $13.8 billion.

Con Edison's utility subsidiaries, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (CECONY) and Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R), in the fourth quarter of 2012, incurred response and restoration costs for Superstorm Sandy of $363 million and $98 million, respectively (including capital expenditures of $104 million and $14 million, respectively).

Consolidated Edison’s quarterly earnings from ongoing operations were $203 million compared with $219 million in the year-ago quarter. Its quarterly net income was $207 million compared with $190 million in the year-ago quarter.

Dividend Update

Consolidated Edison announced that it is increasing its dividend for the 39th consecutive year. The company declared a quarterly dividend of 61.5 cents a share on its common stock, payable Mar 15, 2013 to shareholders of record as of Feb 13, 2013. This comes to an annualized increase of 4 cents over the previous annualized dividend of $2.42 a share.

Guidance

Consolidated Edison expects its earnings from ongoing operations for the year 2013 in the range of $3.65 to $3.85 per share. This forecast reflects, among other things, estimated costs relating to Superstorm Sandy that the utility subsidiaries expect to incur in 2013 to restore the energy systems to normal operating condition and that new rate plans are not expected to become effective until 2014.

Outlook

New York City-based Consolidated Edison is a diversified utility holding company with subsidiaries engaged in both regulated and unregulated businesses. Consolidated Edison’s regulated businesses operate through two subsidiaries — Consolidated Edison Company of New York (CECONY) and Orange and Rockland Utilities (O&R).

Consolidated Edison of New York is a regulated utility in New York City and Westchester County. O&R serves electric and gas customers in southeastern N.Y. state, northern N.J., and northeastern Pa. Consolidated Edison’s unregulated businesses operate through three subsidiaries – Consolidated Edison Development (engaged in infrastructure development), Consolidated Edison Energy (supplies energy in the wholesale market) and Consolidated Edison Solutions (provides retail energy).

Consolidated Edison is a predominantly regulated utility with multi-year rate plans for its services. However, the stock is currently trading at a premium per the current fiscal earnings estimates vis-à-vis the industry average. Consolidated Edison currently retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Other Stocks to Consider

Other stocks worth considering in the utility industry are Ameren Corporation (AEE - Analyst Report), which carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), and The AES Corporation (AES - Analyst Report) and CMS Energy Corporation (CMS - Analyst Report), which carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
 

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