Xcel Energy Inc.'s first-quarter profit rose 8%, shaped by stronger margins in both electricity and natural gas services.

Xcel, Minnesota's biggest utility, said Thursday it earned $315 million during the first three months of the year. That translated to a profit of 61 cents a share, in line with analysts' expectations. Xcel shares rose 1% to close at $55.99.

Revenue rose 6% to $3.14 billion.

Natural gas revenue grew nearly 20% during the period, a reflection of higher demand that came from a snap of ultracold weather in late January and record snow in February in Minnesota and other portions of its eight-state service area.

Ben Fowke, Xcel's chief executive, called the results a "strong start" to the year. He acknowledged the challenges that extreme weather, the polar vortex in Minnesota and "bomb cyclone" in Nebraska posed to the utility's customers and employees. He said employees "did a great job working in extreme conditions to restore service in record time" during those events.

The company also attributed the growth to favorable outcomes of rate decisions by regulators. It forecast dividend growth of 5% to 7% for the year.

In its Northern States Power territory, Xcel said its profit margin was lifted by a step-rate increase in Minnesota and tax-reform changes in the Dakotas. It said it also faced higher operating and maintenance expenses in the region, as well as greater depreciation.

On a call with analysts, Fowke described progress on several major projects, including wind farms in Texas, New Mexico and Minnesota.

He also said the company would raise its dividend by 10 cents a share this year, above its historic growth rate of 8 cents a share.