Southern Co. Posts 1Q Results; Will Stick With New Vogtle Units Even Without Loan Guarantees

Southern Company today reported first quarter 2012 earnings of $368 million - or 42 cents a share - compared with earnings of $422 million - or 50 cents a share - in the first quarter of 2011, according to a release that cited the mild winter as one reason for the decline.

"Despite the effects of an unusually warm winter, we continue to see positive indications of economic growth in our service territory," said Southern Company CEO Thomas A. Fanning, "In the meantime, we remain focused on our core business strategy of providing clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity to customers throughout the Southeast."

The company - which has started construction on their two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle plant in Georgia after obtaining federal construction permits in February - has been negotiating with the Department of Energy for final approval of $8.33 billion in loan guarantees to finance the project. The guarantees are proving more elusive than expected, as the Department of Energy has added new financial conditions following the bankruptcy last year of federal-loan recipient Solyndra, according to Fanning.

"We're very hopeful we'll be able to reach a successful conclusion, but rest assured - if they ask us to do something that's not in our customers' interest, we won't go forward," he said during a conference call with analysts. "We'll be successful whether we have them or not."

Southern's chief financial officer, Arthur Beattie, added that if Southern doesn't get the loan guarantee, it will raise the money in the capital markets.

"The markets have been in terrific shape to be able to handle that," Beattie said during the call.

Other nuclear companies also posted their first quarter financial results Thursday.

Dominion, parent company of Virginia's largest electric utility Virginia Power, reported a 3 percent increase in net income for the first quarter, with net income rising to $494 million - or 86 cents per diluted share - compared with $479 million - or 82 cents per diluted share - a year ago this period period.

Xcel Energy today reported 2012 first quarter earnings of $184 million - or $0.38 per share - compared with 2011 earnings of $204 million - or $0.42 per share.

Entergy today reported an as-reported loss of $151.7 million - or 86 cents per share, compared with as-reported earnings of $248.7 million - or $1.38 per share - for first quarter 2011.

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