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Gas, electric sales increases suggest economic uptick

Staff Report
Published Nov. 7, 2012

The economy appears to be on the upswing as Cayce-based SCANA Corp. reported sales increases for both natural gas and electricity customers.

“We continue to be encouraged by the level of economic development in our territories,” SCANA executive vice president and CFO Jimmy Addison said Tuesday during a conference call with analysts.

Addison noted that about $1 billion has been invested during the past year in the Carolinas territories of SCANA subsidiaries — South Carolina Electric & Gas and PSNC Energy in North Carolina.

“Housing is also encouraging,” Addison said. “While we still have not returned to pre-recession levels, we are seeing improvement in each of the areas we served.”

Housing in the territory of SCE&G, which is SCANA’s principal subsidiary, “has not been as volatile as the rest of the Southeast,” Addison said. SCE&G’s customer base is heavily concentrated in the Columbia and Charleston metro areas.

Customer growth slowed slightly in the electric business during the third quarter, which is typical, Addison said. For a 12-month period ending Sept. 30, electric sales to residential and commercial customers rose 1% and 0.4%, respectively.

Industrial sales were down 2.6%, largely due to the reduced production of one of the utility’s largest customers, which was hit several months ago by a major fire, Addison said. The customer, which was not identified, was brought back online in October, he added.

“Were the customer’s operations consistent with 2011, we estimate an overall industrial sale would have increased approximately 1.4%,” Addison said.

SCE&G reported having 669,000 electric customers and 317,000 natural gas customers at the end of the quarter, up 0.6% and 1.5%, respectively, over a similar period in 2011.

PSNC Energy, headquartered in Gastonia, N.C., serves a 28-county service area in North Carolina. The utility distributes natural gas to approximately 480,000 customers in 96 cities and communities, including the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill areas in the north central part of the state; the Concord, Statesville, Gastonia and Forest City areas in the Piedmont; and the Asheville, Hendersonville, Brevard and Sylva areas in the western part of the state.

SCANA reported net income climbed 16.1% to $122 million in the third quarter compared with $105 million in a similar period last year. For the first nine months of 2012, the company reported earnings of $315 million, an increase of 9% over the same period last year.

Overall, SCANA said operating revenues for the third quarter totaled $1.03 billion, slightly lower than $1.09 billion reported for a similar period in 2011.