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Southern Co. tops power companies in beating Q3 Street expectations

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Southern Co. tops power companies in beating Q3 Street expectations

Southern Co. ranked first among the largest Canadian and U.S. power companies in beating expectations of Wall Street analysts during the third quarter of 2019.

The company reported earnings of $1.34 per share for the third quarter, beating the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of $1.14 by a wide margin. "Utility earnings were helped by more favorable weather, higher rates, pricing & usage, and lower costs partly offset by the absence of earnings from the divested [Gulf Power Co.]," CFRA Equity Research analyst Christopher Muir said in an Oct. 30 investor note.

CFRA also raised its 12-month target by $2 to $62 on higher peer valuations, but lowered its rating on the company to "hold" from "buy."

American Electric Power Co. Inc. announced operating earnings of $1.46 per share, 11.5% above the estimate of $1.31 per share for the quarter. "[This] performance has been driven by strategic investments in our regulated businesses to enhance service for our customers, as well as by favorable weather," Chairman, President and CEO Nicholas Akins said.

On second-quarter earnings calls, executives from both Southern Co. and AEP expressed concerns about the impact of the global trade war and tariffs on industrial sales. Scotia Capital (USA) Inc. analyst Andrew Weisel said AEP is "perhaps the most exposed to global trade wars" of the utilities in the firm's coverage.

Entergy Corp. landed in the third place by beating the Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized earnings estimate of $2.27 per share by 10.5%. The company posted earnings of $2.52 per share.

Meanwhile, third-quarter earnings of 50 cents per share for Fortis Inc. were in line with analyst expectations.

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Consolidated Edison Inc.'s operating earnings of $1.54 per share missed the S&P Global Market Intelligence normalized EPS consensus estimate of $1.58 per share, while DTE Energy Co. finished second to last among the 20 companies in the list after it missed analyst expectations by 3%. The company reported earnings of $1.91 per share, compared to the estimate of $1.97 per share.

Edison International placed last by missing the normalized consensus earnings estimate of $1.59 per share by 5.7%. The company attributed the decrease in third-quarter EPS to $1.50 from $1.56 a year ago to higher shares outstanding related to the equity offering in July and higher wildfire mitigation expenses.

Following the earnings announcement, CFRA its 12-month price target by $12 to $62 on its view of increasing wildfire risks. "Weaker utility results were hurt by higher operations & maintenance and financing costs, partly offset by higher rates and a lower tax rate," analyst Muir wrote in a note to investors.