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Utility's earnings up, but expansion and hiring delayed

ATLANTA — Southern Company reported fourth quarter 2012 earnings of $383 million, or 44 cents a share, compared with earnings of $261 million, or 30 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Southern Company, the parent company of Mississippi Power Co., also reported full-year 2012 earnings of $2.35 billion, or $2.70 a share, compared with earnings for 2011 of $2.20 billion, or $2.57 a share.

Earnings for the full year included 2 cents a share of insurance recovery related to the March 2009 settlement agreement with MC Asset Recovery, LLC (MCAR) to resolve a lawsuit arising out of the 2003 bankruptcy of Mirant Corp., a Southern Company subsidiary until its 2001 spinoff. Excluding the impact of the MCAR insurance recovery, Southern Company earned $2.68 a share in 2012, compared with $2.57 a share for 2011.

Earnings for the fourth quarter of 2012 and the full year were positively influenced by reduced non-fuel operations and maintenance expenses and by other retail revenue effects across Southern Company’s traditional operating companies. Full-year 2012 earnings were negatively affected by significantly milder weather throughout the year as compared with 2011.

Thomas A. Fanning, Southern Company chairman, president and CEO, said economic prospects in the Southeast remain bright, but that expansion and hiring decisions continue to be delayed pending longer-term congressional action on fiscal issues.

Operating revenues for the full year were $16.54 billion, compared with $17.66 billion in 2011, a 6.3 percent decrease that was due primarily to lower fuel costs being passed on to customers. Fourth quarter revenues were $3.703 billion, compared with $3.696 billion for the same period in 2011, an increase of 0.2 percent.

Kilowatt-hour sales to retail customers in Southern Company’s four-state service area decreased 2.3 percent in 2012, compared with 2011. Residential and commercial energy sales — both of which were affected by milder weather in 2012 — decreased 5.4 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, while industrial energy sales increased 0.2 percent.

Total energy sales to Southern Company’s customers in the Southeast, including wholesale sales, decreased 3.4 percent in 2012 compared with 2011.

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