Despite issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, Xcel Energy's third-quarter profits rose 13% and beat Wall Street forecasts, buoyed by electricity rate increases in several states.
The pandemic has significantly reduced commercial and industrial electricity demand nationwide, while increasing residential use as office workers work from home. It's a pattern that was seen again in Minneapolis-based Xcel's third-quarter earnings report.
Commercial and industrial electricity sales were down 3.8% in the third quarter compared to a year ago, the utility said on Thursday. But weather-adjusted residential sales rose 3.7%.
Xcel posted quarterly earnings of $603 million, or $1.14 per share, up from $527 million, or $1.01 a share, in the same period a year ago. Stock analysts on average were expecting profits off $1.09 per share.
"Xcel Energy achieved strong third-quarter results, despite the ongoing pandemic and has launched important new initiatives to support our customers, employees and communities through these challenging times," Xcel CEO Ben Fowke said in a statement.
Xcel is Minnesota's largest electric utility and second-largest natural gas provider. The company's other primary market is Colorado, plus it also operates in Wisconsin, Texas, New Mexico, the Dakotas and a slice of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The company's third-quarter profit increase stemmed largely from favorable regulatory decisions in Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas and New Mexico.
Xcel's third-quarter sales of $3.18 billion were shy of analysts' forecast of $3.39 billion, but were 6% above a year ago.
Its stock closed Thursday at $70.74, up 48 cents a share.
Xcel on Thursday also narrowed its 2020 earnings guidance from a range of $2.73 to $2.83, to $2.75 to $2.81 per share. And the company initiated 2021 earnings guidance of $2.90 to $3 per share, which it says is consistent with long-term growth objectives.
Xcel on Thursday also announced its five-year capital-investment plan, as it customarily does this time of year.
It calls for $22.6 billion in spending across its territories, including $8.4 billion for Minnesota.
That Minnesota figure includes over $1 billion associated with Xcel's proposed COVID relief investments.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in May requested plans from the state's electric and gas utilities, asking them how they could "assist in Minnesota's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic."
Xcel proposed to accelerate about $1 billion in spending on several planned projects, including on its electricity transmission and distribution systems. Xcel's plan to help the recovery also includes an additional $1.4 billion for two large renewable-energy projects.
Those projects — a wind-farm overhaul and a large new solar plant near Becker — would be incremental to Xcel's five-year Minnesota capital spending plan of $8.4 billion.
Xcel wants the PUC to hash out several of its COVID-related proposals — which would entail ratepayer funding — by year's end. The PUC has not yet set a date to publicly review the proposals.