Boosted by favorable weather, Xcel Energy’s profits rose 21 percent during its first quarter, handily beating stock analysts’ estimates.
The Minneapolis-based power company Thursday posted first-quarter net earnings of $291 million or 57 cents per share, up from $239 million or 47 cents per share a year ago. Stock analysts on average were forecasting profits of 51 cents per share.
The company’s revenue clocked in at $2.95 billion, up a tad from a year ago, but just short of analysts’ expectations.
“Xcel Energy delivered solid first-quarter results and is well-positioned to achieve our overall objectives for 2018,” Xcel CEO Ben Fowke said in a press statement.
Xcel’s stock closed Thursday at $46.48, up 71 cents or 1.56 percent.
Xcel is Minnesota’s biggest utility, and Minnesota and Colorado are its two largest markets. The company also operates in Texas, New Mexico, the Dakotas, western Wisconsin and a small part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The company’s gas business posted higher profits due to cold weather in Colorado, Minnesota and elsewhere. Earnings were also helped by an interim gas-rate increase in Colorado, higher rates in Wisconsin and lower operating and maintenance expenses throughout its system.
During a conference call with stock analysts, Fowke was asked about pending legislation in Minnesota that would alter the state’s approval process for over $1 billion in investments needed at Xcel’s nuclear plants.
The legislation would allow Xcel to get upfront approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for the costs of major nuclear improvements. Now, the PUC determines what costs Xcel can recover from rate payers after investments are made in nuclear plants.
“It’s an investment that’s frankly probably been overscrutinized,” Fowke said. “We just want a little additional clarity from both a consumer and shareholder perspective that once we have a plan approved, we have confidence that if we execute on that plan we’re going to get [cost] recovery. If we don’t get [the legislation], it doesn’t mean things change.”
Opponents, including business and consumer groups, argue the legislation now on the House and Senate floors would shift financial risk from Xcel to ratepayers and weaken the PUC’s decisionmaking power.