CenterPoint Energy reports Q1’12 earnings

CenterPoint Energy Inc. reported net income of $147 million, or $0.34 per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2012 compared to $148 million, or $0.35 per diluted share, for the same period of 2011. Operating income for the first quarter of 2012 was $338 million compared to $364 million for the same period of 2011.

“Despite extremely mild winter weather and low natural gas prices, the company reported solid earnings for the quarter,” said David M. McClanahan, president and chief executive officer of CenterPoint Energy. “The benefits of our diversified portfolio of electric and natural gas businesses were evident this quarter and the fundamentals of our business units remain strong. We continue to look for opportunities to invest in each of our businesses where we believe we can build value for our shareholders.”

Electric Transmission & Distribution

The electric transmission & distribution segment reported operating income of $107 million for the first quarter of 2012, consisting of $70 million from the regulated electric transmission & distribution utility operations (TDU) and $37 million related to securitization bonds. Operating income for the first quarter of 2011 was $101 million, consisting of $68 million from the TDU and $33 million related to securitization bonds.

Operating income for the TDU benefited from higher miscellaneous revenues, growth of more than 42,000 customers since March 2011, and higher returns associated primarily with the company’s recovery of the true-up proceeds. These gains were partially offset by milder weather and impacts from new rates implemented in September 2011.

Natural Gas Distribution

The natural gas distribution segment reported operating income of $121 million for the first quarter of 2012 compared to $142 million for the same period of 2011. Operating income declined due to significantly warmer winter weather.

Interstate Pipelines

The interstate pipelines segment reported operating income of $60 million for the first quarter of 2012 compared to $76 million for the same period of 2011. The decline was due to lower revenues primarily as a result of an expired backhaul contract and lower off-system sales due primarily to compressed basis differentials. These declines were partially offset by higher revenues from previously restructured contracts with the company’s natural gas distribution affiliates and increased ancillary services. Operation and maintenance expenses were higher primarily due to a favorable insurance settlement recognized in the first quarter of 2011.

In addition to operating income, this segment recorded equity income of $6 million for the first quarter of 2012 from its 50 percent interest in the Southeast Supply Header (SESH) compared to $4 million for the same period of 2011.

Field Services

The field services segment reported operating income of $47 million for the first quarter of 2012 compared to $36 million for the same period of 2011. The first quarter of 2012 benefited from higher gathering volumes in the Haynesville and Fayetteville shales partially offset by lower prices received from sales of retained gas.

In addition to operating income, this business had equity income of $3 million for the first quarter of 2012 from its 50 percent interest in a gathering and processing joint venture (Waskom) compared to $2 million for the same period of 2011.

Competitive Natural Gas Sales and Services

The competitive natural gas sales and services segment reported operating income of $1 million for the first quarter of 2012 compared to $10 million for the same period of 2011. The first quarter of 2012 included a $4 million write-down of natural gas inventory to the lower of average cost or market. The first quarter of 2012 also included charges of $1 million resulting from mark-to-market accounting for derivatives associated with certain forward natural gas purchases and sales used to lock in economic margins compared to charges of $2 million for the same period of 2011. In addition to these items, operating income was impacted by milder winter weather, compressed margins and higher operation and maintenance expenses.

Dividend Declaration

On April 26, 2012, CenterPoint Energy’s board of directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.2025 per share of common stock payable on June 8, 2012, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on May 16, 2012.

Outlook Reaffirmed for 2012

CenterPoint Energy reaffirmed its estimate for 2012 earnings on a guidance basis in the range of $1.08 to $1.20 per diluted share.